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In re Marriage of George and Deamon Summary

 

In re Marriage of George and Deamon published 5-17-19

 

Snippet: RFOs may be decided on declarations unless the objecting party formally requests the other party appear for cross-examination.

 

The Fourth Appellate District of California recently upheld an order requiring a woman to pay $10,000 in sanctions to her ex-husband after she refused to approve the proposed judgment in the case. The wife appealed the sanctions order, arguing that the court improperly based its decision on documents instead of on live testimony. The appellate court disagreed, however, because she had failed to follow the proper procedures for securing the testimony of her ex-husband at the sanctions hearing.

 

Under California Family Code’s Section 271, a judge may require one party to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees, when “the conduct of each party or attorney furthers or frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys.”

 

In George v. Daemon, the Stephanie George and Daniel C. Daemon separated after 19 years of marriage. At a settlement conference, the parties reached an agreement and the court directed the Daemon’s lawyer to prepare a judgment and send it to George for approval before it would be submitted to the court.

 

When George received the proposed judgment, however, she raised additional issues, which led Daemon to file a request for entry of judgment. He also included the request for sanctions.

 

At the hearing on Daemon’s request to enter judgment, George approved the judgment and the court entered it. At the subsequent sanctions hearing, Daemon presented a series of documents supporting his position that George had caused him to incur unnecessary attorney’s fees and costs. The court sided with Daemon and entered the sanctions order in November.

 

George appealed the order awarding sanctions, arguing that the court improperly based its decisions on documents instead of on live testimony. A court can hear live testimony in sanctions hearings under Section 217 “unless the parties stipulate otherwise or the court makes a finding of good cause to refuse to hear the testimony.”

 

In its analysis, the court noted that there is no rule that would require Daemon’s presence, either in person or by phone, at the sanctions hearing. If George wanted him to be there for cross-examination, the court noted, she should have sent him a notice to appear pursuant to Section 1987 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

 

The court found that George had not followed “the proper procedures to ensure that Daemon’s live testimony was available” for the sanctions hearing and, therefore, she had forfeited her right to live testimony. The appellate court ruled, then, that the family court was correct in ruling based on Daemon’s declarations and upheld the sanctions award.

 

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