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Importance of Effective Counsel in Family Law Cases

Importance of Effective Counsel in Family Law Cases

Posted on September 10th, 2013

INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL IN FAMILY LAW PROCEEDINGS

In the recent case of In re Marriage of Campi, 212 Cal.App.4th 1565 (2013), husband and wife of a twenty-year marriage decided to separate, and then disputed over the dissolution of their marriage for the following seven years. The husband requested a community property home become his separate property. The parties agreed he would buy the wife’s share, however could not agree on the valuation of the home, nor the applicable deductions. The husband finally prevailed when the trial court agreed with him on both arguments. The court instructed him to draft the order. Instead of doing so, husband hired a new attorney and filed a motion for a new trial alleging incorrect valuation of the home. The ground husband relied upon in his motion was ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

The general rule is that there is no due process right to counsel in civil cases, including dissolutions of marriage.Since there is no right to counsel, there is no argument for ineffective assistance of counsel.The California Court of Appeal in this case stated that the neglect by the husband’s attorney was imputed to husband, and there were no exceptions giving him the right to a new trial on an ineffective assistance of counsel ground.

This case identifies the importance of hiring an effective attorney to represent your interests in a family law case. Any negligence on the part of the attorney will be imputed to the client and it is not an acceptable excuse to ask the court to remedy the damage.