In many states, people and their lawyers could face possible sanctions for litigating their cases in bad faith. What is bad faith? It can mean many things, but it is generally understood to be filing court documents and/or pleadings that are essentially frivolous and lack merit.

Although you should be careful about generalizing the law because it changes from state-to-state, it is a general truism that, in many courts, parties and their attorneys must acknowledge and certify that all the legal documents, pleadings, attachments, motions, and other paper have been signed, executed and brought before the court in good faith.

If a judge determines that a party has violated the rule to bring claims in good faith, the judge may (but does not have to) impose sanctions on the parties and/or their attorneys. The possible sanctions include forcing the party who brought the pleading in bad faith to pay court costs, attorneys fees, or other financial penalty. Not only is this bad for the party that brought the pleading at that moment, but it is also bad for the parties’ case as a whole. Judges tend to not like parties that bring frivolous motions before the court. The judge is a very busy person and he doesn’t like his or the court’s time wasted. After all, he is paid by the taxpayers. Do you want to pay for frivolous pleadings filed by bad faith litigants? I didn’t think so.

In some states, if an opposing party believes that the other side has filed a frivolous motion in bad faith, the opposing party has a deadline to file what is called a “motion for sanction.” A typical deadline for filing a motion for sanctions will be anywhere from 20 to 30 days after the party receives service of the first parties’ allegedly frivolous pleading.

If a motion for sanction is filed on time, the judge will typically set the matter for a hearing. At the hearing, both sides are given the opportunity to argue their case and present it to the court. The judge will then consider the evidence presented and, usually, make a decision on the bench.

From my experience, it is pretty obvious when a motion for sanctions will be granted. Attorneys know when things are being litigated in bad faith by the other side. Most attorneys hesitate to bring a motion for sanctions against opposing counsel. But, at times, it is necessary.

If you believe that you might have a good argument that the other side of your lawsuit or divorce case has filed a frivolous motion and you want to seek sanctions, you should talk with any number of good, experienced divorce lawyers in your area.