Section 2030 of California’s Family Code provides an important safeguard to ensure the fairness of marriage dissolution proceedings. It allows the Court to order a more financially well-off party to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney fees, beginning as early as the start of the proceedings. Section 2030 was enacted to put divorcing parties on equal footing.
The protections of Section 2030 extend beyond spouses: where a third party has been joined to a dissolution proceeding, the statute allows the court to order that third party to pay the attorney fees of one of the spouses to the extent such fees were incurred in connection with the third party. This provision furthers California’s public policy in favor of egalitarian dissolution proceedings.
But what happens when that public policy collides with California trust law? Specifically, what occurs when one spouse is a beneficiary of a “spendthrift trust” designed to keep assets away from the beneficiary’s creditors? The California Court of Appeal’s recent decision in In re Marriage of Wendt (2021) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, addressed this question.