California Family Code Section 271 - Interpretation
Family Code section 271 provides:
"(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, the court may base an award of attorney's fees and costs on the extent to which 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. An award of attorney's fees and costs pursuant to this section is in the nature of a sanction. In making an award pursuant to this section, the court shall take into consideration all evidence concerning the parties' incomes, assets, and liabilities. the court shall not impose a sanction pursuant to this section that imposes an unreasonable financial burden on the party against whom the sanction is imposed. In order to obtain an award under this section, the party requesting an award of attorney's fees and costs is not required to demonstrate any financial need for the award.
(b) An award of attorney's fees and costs as a sanction pursuant to this section shall be imposed only after notice to the party against whom the sanction is proposed to be imposed and opportunity for that party to be heard.
(c) An award of attorney's fees and costs as a sanction pursuant to this section is payable only from the property or income of the party against whom the sanction is imposed, except that the award may be against the sanctioned party's share of the community property."
In In re Marriage of Lucio (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 1068, the trial court did not specify the statutory basis for its award of attorney fees, but the Court of Appeal determined that the "more reasonable interpretation" of the order was that the fees were awarded to one party as a sanction against the other, pursuant to Family Code section 271. (Lucio, at p. 1082.) "'Section 271 sanctions have been upheld for "obstreperous conduct which frustrated the policy of the law in favor of settlement, and caused the costs of the litigation to greatly increase . . . ."" (Lucio, supra, 161 Cal.App.4th at p. 1082.)