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San Francisco, CA |

In April 2013, I defended myself pro per against my ex's attorney who filed sanctions against me (of course, the judge sided w/attorney). The problem, I was unemployed 7 months at the time, on welfare, and unable to pay any fees. The judge ordered me to pay $300 per month starting in September (on his belief I would be employed), however, I'm still unemployed and have zero income. I'm on verge of losing house. I'm receiving countless threats from my ex's attorney stating she will bring motion against me for not paying and judge will likely send me to jail. Can I file appeal based on fact I was indigent at time of order: 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 ordered.

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Attorney answers 3


You should post this in family law.


Your stated basis for appeal strikes me as lacking merit and is likely to earn your more sanctions, as the judge appears to have believed that you'd not have the burden come September. Instead, I advise that you get the matter back before the judge to get a modification of the order's deadline for commencing payment (but be prepared for attacks on your lack of finding work). Maybe you (esp. via an attorney) can negotiate terms of payment that work better for you.


The court cannot find you in contempt if the order was based on imputed income. The court still needs to find that you have the ability to pay, that there was an order. The requirements that they have to prove to the court is that there was an order, and that you were aware of the order, that you didn't comply with the order and that you had the ability to comply.

If after they put on the case, ask them if they are resting, and if they did not meet any of the above requirements, ask the court to dismiss the contempt. Also, the standard of proof is higher that most other family law cases, as it is a quasi-criminal action.

Good luck.