Missouri law gives the family law court the discretion to order one of the disputing parties to the case to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney’s fees. Attorneys’ fees can be ordered in cases such as divorce, child support, child custody, and modification matters. The law requires the court to consider relevant factors such as conduct during the case and the financial resources of the parties when determining whether an award of fees should be granted and the amount of fees. This means that the person requesting the fees must prove that they are entitled to the award of fees.
This might sound like an easy task, and many people believe their case to be a slam dunk in getting an award of fees. However, in practice, attorneys’ fees are rarely awarded, due to at least a couple of reasons: First, most family law matters are settled before trial, which means that the parties do not have the opportunity to present their request for fees to the judge. While terms of settlement may include one person paying some fees of the other, it is not something typically agreed to during settlement. Second, it is my experience that courts are reluctant to award fees without a large disparity of financial circumstances of the parties or gross misconduct by one party.
Having realistic expectations for the award of fees based on the circumstances of your case is important. Speaking with a Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal P.C. family law attorney about your matter can help set those expectations.