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Attorney Fees

Although we require payment in advance for most services, the court may order your spouse to reimburse you for some or all of those fees depending upon the circumstances of your case. In some instances, we may even find that your case warrants a motion for temporary orders seeking an order from the court that your spouse actually advance some money toward your attorney’s fees right away as opposed to seeking reimbursement at the end of the case. The statutes and caselaw we have relied upon when successfully securing such orders are set forth below to provide you with additional information.

A.R.S. § 25-324 permits the family law court to order a party to pay all or contribute to the attorney fees incurred by the other party. The primary focus of the court when considering such an award is on the financial resources of both parties and the reasonableness of the positions each party has taken in the case. The court has broad discretion when deciding whether or not to award attorney’s fees to a party.

Under subsection (B), there are a number of situations in which the family law court “shall” award fees as opposed to the “may” award attorney’s fees discussed above. These situations are set forth in A.R.S. § 25-324(B). The purpose of the statute authorizing court to order that one party pay the fees and costs incurred by the other party in a domestic relations case after considering the parties’ relative financial resources is to provide a remedy for the party least able to pay. Graville v. Dodge (App. Div.1 2000) 197 Ariz. 591, 5 P.3d 925.

Attorney fees, under this section governing awards of such fees in marriage dissolution actions, are awarded to insure that the poorer party has the proper means to litigate the action, not to punish litigants. Garrett v. Garrett (App. Div.1 1983) 140 Ariz. 564, 683 P.2d 1166. The purpose of awarding the Mother suit costs and attorneys’ fees in divorce action is to insure that Mother have the means to litigate her action free of the Father’s hold on the family finances. Olsztyn v. Olsztyn (App. Div.1 1973) 20 Ariz.App. 545, 514 P.2d 498.

Relative financial disparity between the parties is the benchmark for eligibility for attorney’s fees in a divorce action. Breitbart-Napp v. Napp (App. Div.1 2007) 216 Ariz. 74, 163 P.3d 1024. The allowance of attorney’s fees and costs is left to discretion of trial court. Drees v. Drees (1971) 16 Ariz.App. 22, 490 P.2d 851; Reich v. Reich (1970) 13 Ariz.App. 98, 474 P.2d 457; Davis v. Davis (1969) 9 Ariz.App. 49, 449 P.2d 66; Burkhardt v. Burkhardt (1973) 109 Ariz. 419, 510 P.2d 735; Atkinson v. Atkinson (1965) 2 Ariz.App. 1, 405 P.2d 919; Babnick v. Babnick (1963) 94 Ariz. 338, 385 P.2d 216.

The trial court has discretion to award attorney fees in divorce proceedings, and the Court of Appeals will not disturb that finding absent an abuse of discretion. Gutierrez v. Gutierrez (App. Div.1 1998) 193 Ariz. 343, 972 P.2d 676. It is an abuse of discretion to deny attorney fees to the spouse who has substantially fewer resources, unless those resources are clearly ample to pay the fees. In re Marriage of Robinson and Thiel (App. Div.1 2001) 201 Ariz. 328, 35 P.3d 89.

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