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Can FC 271 Sanctions be imposed against an attorney of record or just the litigants to the case?


The Court can issue sanctions against either party in a family law case based on their behavior in tacking egregious actions contrary to settlement or otherwise not cooperating with the discovery or disclosure process. This sanction was typically reserved to be imposed against the parties. However, a recent case (Webb vs. Webb) sought to impose such a sanction against the attorney for the party as well. In the Webb case, the Second District reversed a trial court’s order that H’s counsel pay attorney fees as a sanction under Family Code §271. It held “that section 271 does not authorize the court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is intended to promote settlement of family law litigation through shifting fees between the parties to the litigation. …We conclude, based on the same reasoning [in Daniels], that sanctions may not be awarded under Family Code section 271 to a party’s attorney when it is that attorney who is requesting the sanctions for the sole benefit of the attorney.” With that being said, it is clear that it is the parties’ behavior that is under scrutiny rather than their counsel. All the more reason to hire an experience family law attorney and to really question whether a particular course of action is really best for your particular case.

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