Service of Notice Upon the Attorney In California

In Reynolds v. Reynolds (1943) 21 Cal. 2d 580, the trial court entered a final decree of divorce in 1934. Six years later, the wife sought an increase in child support and served the motion papers by mailing them to the husband's attorneys of record in the divorce action. The question before the Supreme Court was "whether the service of the notice and order to show cause upon the attorneys who represented the defendant in the divorce action was valid as a service upon attorneys then of record." (Id. at p. 583 (hereafter Reynolds).) At the time, an attorney could withdraw from a case only with the consent of the client or pursuant to court order. (See Amendments, Deering's Ann. Code Civ. Proc. (1991 ed.) foll. 284, p. 554.) In addition, a notice of withdrawal had to be served on the "adverse party." (Id., 285, p. 567.) In finding that service was valid, the Supreme Court observed: "After appearance in an action a defendant or his attorney is entitled to notice of all subsequent proceedings of which notice is required to be given. . . . ". . . a client may of course discharge his attorney at any time . . ., but during the course of a proceeding service of papers on the attorney of record, where service upon the attorney is proper, binds the client until the attorney is discharged or substituted out of the case in the manner provided by law. . . . the court is concerned in such cases not with whether the client is represented by an attorney, but whether he has an attorney of record, whether any change in attorneys has been made with the client's consent or by court order, and whether notice thereof has been given to the adverse party." (Reynolds, supra, 21 Cal. 2d at pp. 583-584.) The court continued: "The authority of an attorney . . . ordinarily ends with the entry of judgment, except for the purpose of enforcing it or having it set aside or reversed. . . . Nevertheless the judgment of divorce insofar as it relates to the custody and maintenance of minor children is not final. As to those matters the litigation must be regarded as still pending . . . . the attorney of record is the person the client has named as his agent upon whom service of papers may be made. . . . the burden lay upon the defendant to keep an attorney of record or to make such arrangements for notice with the clerk as he thought advisable." (Reynolds, supra, 21 Cal. 2d at p. 584.)