Marriage of Hofer Appeal: A Family Law Lesson on Cooperation and Disclosures

The California appellate case of “Marriage of John and Lisa Hofer” comes to us from the 2nd appellate district. While appellate courts don’t “make” the law, they do interpret it and hear appeals filed by spouses in divorce cases. These family law appeals come out of trial courts. The Marriage of Hofer case is important because it teaches a lesson – if you fail to follow court orders and don’t provide your mandatory disclosures, you do so at great risk to yourself. Hope you enjoy this article. – B. Robert Farzad

I have handled cases very similar to Marriage of Hofer in Orange County Family Court – cases where the spouse that was married to my client simply would not cooperate, would cause delays and would violate court orders. In those cases, our law firm stepped in and obtained significant monetary sanctions (punishment) against that spouse and we have even been successful in keeping spouses like this from presenting evidence of their legal position at hearings and trials.

So, what happened in the Hofer case? Quite simply, the husband, John Hofer, was difficult and uncooperative. He caused excessive lawyer’s fees to be incurred and created unreasonable delays. John Hofer did not respond properly to discovery requests, failed to produce his mandatory California Family Code disclosures, forced his wife, Lisa Hofer, to file motions with the Family Court to compel his cooperation and, even after all of that, still caused delays and more fees. Finally, the Family Court had enough and made an order of $200,000.00 in attorneys fee award against him. John Hofer appealed and claimed he could not afford to pay that. What did the Court of Appeal tell Mr. Hofer?

Where a party unlawfully withholds evidence of his income and assets, he will not be heard to complain that an order is not based on the evidence he refuses to disclose. If John wished the trial court to have considered all of the circumstances in making an attorney fee award, the simple solution would have lain in his own hands: disclose the information. But instead John closed the door to an appeal from the trial court’s order and threw away the key.

In other words, John Hofer lost the right to complain about the fee award as a result of his lack of cooperation and refusal to disclose information that is mandated by the Family Code. Ultimately, the Court dismissed his appeal.

Is this a fair result? Yes. The John Hofers of the family law world cause a lot of unnecessary litigation. We don’t represent people like Mr. Hofer. We have had cases against spouses who used the same or similar tactics. They learned their lessons the hard way, just like John Hofer did. If you don’t comply with the California Family Code’s mandatory disclosures and refuse to cooperate in the discovery process, you do so at significant financial and legal risk to yourself.

Got a difficult spouse whose tactics are similar to John Hofer? Contact us. We are ready to help.

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