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Will a California Court Impose Sanctions for Filing a Frivolous Family Law Appeal?

Parties in California family law proceedings have the right to appeal orders to a state appellate court related to all major aspects of family law, from spousal support and property distribution to child custody, child support, and even paternity. But just because you have the right to appeal does not mean that you should appeal a ruling you do not like without sufficient grounds for doing so.

In fact, a California court may indeed impose monetary sanctions for filing what is called a bad faith or frivolous appeal. Many an opposing party might try to intimidate a wronged party from pursuing their legal right to appeal by threatening to seek sanctions, so it is important to understand the difference between a proper appeal and one that might invite sanctions.

What Sanctions Are Available for Filing an Improper Appeal

The two main consequences a litigant who files a groundless or otherwise improper appeal might face are: 1) attorney’s fees that the other party has to incur to oppose the appeal; and 2) the public costs that a court incurs by having to hear the appeal.

Thus, a “vexatious” litigant might be required to pay the other person’s attorney fees while also having to pay thousands of dollars to the court for its troubles in hearing the appeal. That said, the other party cannot pursue an independent lawsuit based on filing a frivolous appeal alone.

What Qualifies as a Frivolous or Improper Family Court Appeal in California

In determining whether an appeal is so improper as to invite sanctions, the court is going to look at both the legal grounds for the appeal as well as the party’s motive in bringing the appeal.

As for the legal grounds, a California attorney has a professional obligation to pursue any possibly meritorious claim on the client’s behalf. “Possibly meritorious” is of course different from “meritorious,” meaning that an appeal will not be improper just because the party does not win. But if there was never any reasonable hope of the argument winning, then the appeal might be considered “impossibly” meritorious, so to speak, such that problems could arise.

With looking at improper motives, a court does not want one party to bring an appeal against the other party – even if it is possibly meritorious – if the true purpose of the appeal is not to win but rather to harass the other party or otherwise injure them, such as through delaying the benefits of a result that is rightfully theirs.

You as a client are not expected to understand what is a possibly meritorious appeal and what is not, and thus those considering appeals in their California family law cases are encouraged to speak with an experienced appeals attorney regarding the circumstances of their case and whether justifiable grounds for an appeal do indeed exist.

Help in Your Washington and California Appeal

The Law Office of Corey Evan Parker is focused on the civil and criminal appeals process in Washington and California. If you are considering filing a criminal or civil appeal, feel free to contact Mr. Parker today for a no obligation 30-minute consultation.