Vexatious Litigants in Family Law

Family law cases often involve a lot of hurt feelings and anger. Unfortunately, some parties see the court system as a way to get revenge or punish their former spouses or significant others. There are many stories about a scorned spouse repeatedly dragging his or her ex-spouse into court just to humiliate him or her or cost as much money in attorney’s fees as possible. These types of people can be named by a court as a “vexatious litigant.” and fortunately, there are ways to deal with this type of person.

“Vexatious litigant” is a term used by lawyers and courts to refer to a person who is repeatedly filing motions and lawsuits for the purpose of harassing or bullying another party. Note that this does not refer to a person who is simply litigious. This particularly refers to the type of litigant who is abusing the court system just to “get back at” a former spouse or partner. A court may examine a litigant’s history to see if he or she has a habit of filing frivolous, baseless, or repetitive motions or petitions. If a court determines this is the case, then the judge may enter an order that curtails that litigant’s ability to file future causes of action.

An example of this may be seen in Pollack v. Kalen, a case from July 2012. This was a post-divorce case, in which the former husband had asked for a downward modification of alimony and child support, as well as relief from several other orders. The appellate court’s opinion makes special note of the history between the parties, which included several years’ worth of motions and cross-motions. In several instances, the former husband had been assessed attorney’s fees in those previous cases for pursuing motions in bad faith without even “paying lip service” to the applicable law or court rules. Moreover, in the current case, the trial court had remarked on the former husband’s tendency to file repetitive motions that asked for relief he had been previously denied, as well as his refusal to accept the court’s decisions. The trial court decided that any future motions that the former husband filed would first be screened by the court before being listed for a hearing. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that it was appropriate and allowable for the trial court to label the former husband a vexatious litigant and require that his motions be screened.

We have extensive experience in helping our clients with harassing and bullying former spouses or partners. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 for an appointment to discuss your options and how to protect yourself.
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