How Attorney Fees Work
What to Expect from Your Legal Dispute
Anytime a disputed issue arises during a divorce case, the parties involved can present that issue to the trial judge. This includes the issue of attorney fees. The judge can award attorney fees to equalize the parties' ability to employ counsel for presenting or defending a motion, discovery abuse, contempt, the cost of trial, and for any number of other matters.
For example, if one party is in a superior financial position, trial judges often award attorney fees "on account," such that the party in the better financial position cannot out-spend the other. This helps ensure that both parties are fairly represented throughout the case.
Knowing this, many times, an award of attorney fees can be negotiated and resolved without a trial judge's intervention.
Attorney fees are based on the lawyers' hourly rates. When a lawyer seeks an award of attorney fees from the Court on behalf of a client, that lawyer will present what he or she believes is a reasonable estimate of the fees that they will expend. If the attorney has already expended the fees, they may instead provide, a summary of the hours spent, the hourly rates, and why such amount is reasonable.
The settlement proposals that parties exchange often play a critical role in a judge's decision on attorney fees. Suppose one party offered to settle the case for a specific amount and the second party refused, resulting in a trial, and the trial ended in an award similar to or better than the first party's offer. In that case, the trial judge may award that party's fees due to finding the second party's refusal to resolve the case was unreasonable.
Reasonableness is key. If a party is unreasonable, he or she will probably be penalized by the judge through an award of attorney fees.
Our firm is conscientious of the time we spend prosecuting a divorce case, and we always make efforts to resolve our cases. We document the time spent on each matter and, if necessary, present evidence as to the appropriateness of our request for attorney fees to the Court. As an example, in 2014, after trying Harmon's client Cynthia George's case to a jury in Albany, Georgia, the trial judge granted Cynthia one of the highest awards of attorney fees ever made in Georgia, in large part resulting from the reasonableness of her efforts to settle the case.
To schedule a consultation with our firm, contact us online or via phone at (404) 882-7263.