The overwhelming sentiment is that parties to divorce proceedings should be represented by counsel, especially when there are children involved. There are many intricate legal details and requirements that must be followed throughout the entire process. For example, the California Family Code governs many issues that arise during the dissolution of a marriage. And the law certainly serves to protect the interests of parties to a divorce proceeding. If you are considering divorce, it is important to consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney as early in the process as possible.
Because legal representation is particularly helpful to "level the playing field" in a divorce proceeding, state law provides that courts must make sure that each party has access to an attorney. Specifically, Section 2030 of the California Family Code provides in relevant part that in a dissolution of marriage proceeding, as well as any proceeding following the entry of a related judgment, the court shall ensure that both parties have access to an attorney. According to the statute, this includes access early in the proceedings, to preserve each party's rights by ordering, if necessary based on the income and needs assessments, one party to pay to the other party, an amount that is reasonably necessary for attorney's fees as well as other costs associated with maintaining or defending the proceeding.
In a recent case, the wife sought "need-based" attorney's fees (among other relief) in a divorce trial that lasted four days. The trial court refused to award the relief she requested, finding that the evidence did not support such a ruling. The court found that there had not been a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel and that neither party was in a position to pay the attorney's fees and costs of the other party. The wife appealed this ruling, arguing, 1) that her husband's testimony lacked credibility and, 2) that he made frivolous motions and forced her to compel his mandatory disclosures.