Attorneys’ Fees – Statement of Grounds

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals says a court awarding lawyers’ fees from one party to the other in a divorce must specifically set forth the reasons for the award. In Belcourt v. Belcourt, Case No. 2030713 (Ala. Civ. App. April 29, 2005), the trial court had ordered the husband in a post-divorce hearing to pay the wife’s attorney a $1200 fee, pursuant to the Alabama Litigation Accounatability Act (ALAA), Ala. Code. § 12-19-273.

The Appeals Court ruled that the trial court’s simple order that the husband should pay the attorney’s fee was inadequate. It reversed and remanded with instructions to the trial court to enter an order including specific grounds for the award of attorneys’ fees.

For reference, here is the text of Ala. Code. § 12-19-273:

§ 12-19-273. Factors determining assessment

In determining the amount of an award of costs or attorneys’ fees, the court shall exercise its sound discretion. When granting an award of costs and attorneys’ fees, the court shall specifically set forth the reasons for such award and shall consider the following factors, among others, in determining whether to assess attorneys’ fees and costs and the amount to be assessed:

(1) The extent to which any effort was made to determine the validity of any action, claim or defense before it was asserted;

(2) The extent of any effort made after the commencement of an action to reduce the number of claims being asserted or to dismiss claims that have been found not to be valid;

(3) The availability of facts to assist in determining the validity of an action, claim or defense;

(4) The relative financial position of the parties involved;

(5) Whether or not the action was prosecuted or defended, in whole or in part, in bad faith or for improper purpose;

(6) Whether or not issues of fact, determinative of the validity of a parties’ claim or defense, were reasonably in conflict;

(7) The extent to which the party prevailed with respect to the amount of and number of claims or defenses in controversy;

(8) The extent to which any action, claim or defense was asserted by an attorney or party in a good faith attempt to establish a new theory of law in the state, which purpose was made known to the court at the time of filing;

(9) The amount or conditions of any offer of judgment or settlement in relation to the amount or conditions of the ultimate relief granted by the court;

(10) The extent to which a reasonable effort was made to determine prior to the time of filing of an action or claim that all parties sued or joined were proper parties owing a legally defined duty to any party or parties asserting the claim or action;

(11) The extent of any effort made after the commencement of an action to reduce the number of parties in the action; and

(12) The period of time available to the attorney for the party asserting any defense before such defense was interposed.

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