(Vol 1.58) May 17, 2015
By Craig Franklin Chambers Esq. 7851 S. Elati Street #204, Littleton, CO 80120
The Littleton Lawyer.
In my role as a real estate, civil, and family law attorney in Littleton, Highlands Ranch, and Arapahoe, Douglas, and Jefferson County, the question of attorneys fees is usually a major concern.issue. Family law litgation can be enormously expensive. The question arises--who will pay your attorneys fees in the divorce, family law case, or post-decree domestic proceeding?
In family law and divorce cases, there is a statute--C.R.S. 14-10-119--which allows for an award of attorneys fees based on the financial resources of the parties. The purpose of this statute is to equalize the economic positions of the parties in terms of litigating the domestic issues.
Based on this statute, in a domestic case, you can be awarded attorneys fees based on the disparity of financial resources of you and your Ex, regardless of how you fare in the litigation. In other words, you can win every requested issue in the divorce and still be liable for your Ex's attorneys fees if you are have greater financial resources than your Ex.
Further, it doesn't matter if your Ex actually pays the fees, or if the fees are paid by someone else, or if your Ex's fees are substantially higher or lower than your fees. What matters is the disparity between the financial resources of the parties, not the hourly rate charged by the attorneys.
In addition to C.R.S. 14-10-119, there is C.R.S. 13-17-102, which awards attorneys fees if one side files motions or escalates the case in a manner that the court finds to be substantially frivolous, substantially groundless, or substantially vexatious. In that instance, the court can award some or all attorneys fees against both the offending party and its attorney for acting in bad faith.
This applies to all civil actions but especially to domestic relations cases because of the emotions involved, the cases are often unreasonably and irrationally escalated.
Just as the decision as to what a disparity of resources means under C.R.S. 14-10-119, the decision as to what conduct was frivolous, groundless, and vexatious is often subjective. Therefore, you must assume that you will be responsible for paying your fees in a domestic proceeding but request an award for reimbursement for fees in every pleading.
Although the courts can award attorneys fees based on either statute at any time in the proceeding, courts in Jefferson, Douglas, and Arapahoe County usually defer the issue of attorneys fees to the Permanent Orders hearing. If the case settles, the issue of fees is resolved in the Separation Agreement. If the case goes to final hearing, the request for fees and their reasonableness is litigated at the hearing.