Family Code section 6344 is part of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. It authorizes an award of attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party in a proceeding concerning a domestic violence restraining order. California Family Code section 6344 does not afford payment in advance in order to be able to hire a lawyer and file the action or when defending oneself from allegations of domestic abuse. However, Family Code 6344 allows courts to order a reimbursement for attorney’s fees and costs a party incurred in seeking or defending domestic violence restraining orders.
Effective January 1, 2023, the legislature added a new version of Family Code section 6344 making it easier for victims of domestic violence (or those falsely accused) to get reimbursed for their attorney fees and costs after the restraining order hearing. (§ 6344, as amended by Stats. 2022, ch. 591, § 1.)
By its express terms, the new law now requires a trial court to award attorney’s fees to a prevailing petitioner, regardless of that parties ability to pay their own fees. However, prior to making an award of attorney’s fees, the trial court must consider whether the party ordered to pay attorney’s fees “has, or is reasonably likely to have, the ability to pay.” (§ 6344, as amended by Stats. 2022, ch. 591, § 2.)
Finally, revised Family Code 6344 permits a family court to award attorney’s fees to a prevailing respondent (the person accused of abuse), if the request for the restraining order was frivolous or solely intended to abuse, intimidate, or cause unnecessary delay. So, if you are the prevailing Respondent and you demonstrate “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the other party made false allegations, misused the domestic violence restraining order procedures to obtain a custody advantage, or avoid paying spousal support, or to gain exclusive use of the home, the court may issue you attorney fees and costs.
David Dworakowski is a founding partner at the family law firm Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, a premier family law firm in Irvine. Mr. Dworakowski dedicates a large portion of his practice to representing victims of domestic violence, including restraining orders, custody, and domestic violence tort cases. In his over 30 years of practice, he has successfully handled more than 1000 domestic violence cases. He has a passion for law, and a deep commitment and compassion for his clients.
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