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Asking for Attorney’s Fees

I was in court the other day requesting attorney’s fees because the other side refused to produce documents that I felt were reasonable and should have been provided. I needed those documents in order to calculate child support and because I was arguing to get the documents from the other side I also asked for attorney’s fees. One of the other attorneys asked me on the way out of the courthouse whether or not I thought I would get my attorney’s fees paid. We both agreed that generally each party is ordered to pay their own attorney’s fees. However, we also agreed that if more people asked for attorney’s fees and if judges decided to award more fees it would keep people out of the courtroom arguing about legal issues they shouldn’t be in court arguing about in the first place. My conclusion is that if you don’t ask for fees in situations where fees are warranted you will never know if you would have gotten the fees awarded to you in the first place.

What is the law on this issue? Under Missouri law in a family law case the court considers three factors in awarding attorney’s fees: 1. The financial resources of the parties, 2. The merits of the case, and 3. The conduct of the parties during the litigation.

Most of the time when fees are awarded there is some evidence that the party being ordered to pay has the ability to pay. Rarely, if ever is a party ordered to pay fees when they don’t have the ability to pay. Fees are also awarded when it appears that the merits of the case generally rest much more with one party than the other. For example, if it is clear that one party abused the other or the children that could form the basis for an attorney fee award. Finally, fees tend to be awarded when people don’t follow court orders. I always tell clients expect to pay attorney’s fees if you can’t follow the judge’s orders.