Who Pays The Bill?
In this blog, I devote regular space to common issues arising out of family court disputes in Kentucky, including family law cases in Louisville and LaGrange. Let’s talk today about attorney fees and one common issue in divorce, custody, and other family law cases in Jefferson and Oldham County.
In Kentucky family court cases, a party with greater financial resources can sometimes be ordered to pay the attorney fees and costs of the other party. In this recent case, decided by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the court reversed an order of a Jefferson County family court judge in Louisville.
Kentucky Court of Appeals
Breeden v. Strietelmeier, unpublished opinion
Decided August 11, 2017
The relevant discussion from this unpublished opinion is as follows:
“We recognize that a trial court in a divorce action is not required to make specific findings when determining whether to award attorney fees. Miller, 234 S.W.3d at 374. However, we are also cognizant of the fact that the court is obligated to consider the financial resources of the parties before ordering a party to pay reasonable fees or court costs of the other party. Id. (quoting Hollingsworth v. Hollingsworth, 798 S.W.2d 145, 148 (Ky. App. 1990)). Thus, the court is required to address the issue of the financial disparity, if any, between the parties, prior to granting attorney fees or costs. In this case, the court did not.
When we look to the court’s order in this matter, the court noted that it had not taken any evidence regarding the financial matters of the parties before awarding Ashley and Mour fees. Because there is no evidence in the record, we are left to guess if the court considered any financial disparity as required by KRS 403.220. The court has broad discretion to grant attorney fees and court costs, but it is required to consider the disparity, if any, in the relative financial resources of the parties in favor of the payor. Neidlinger v. Neidlinger, 52 S.W.3d 513, 519 (Ky. 2001). Since there was no evidence submitted regarding the financial resources of the parties at the time the court entered its order, we find that the court abused its discretion in awarding fees to Ashley and Mour.”
Call Jason Dattilo, an experienced family law attorney practicing in family courts of Jefferson, Oldham, and the surrounding counties.
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