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Attorney’s Fees in Denver and Colorado Family Law Cases
In Denver and Colorado dissolution of marriage actions, also known as divorce cases, and actions affecting child support and parental responsibilities, the court may award attorney’s fees incurred in litigation to the other party under Colorado Revised Statute (“C.R.S.”) § 14-10-119. Denver and Colorado courts determine whether or not to award attorney’s fees based on principles of equity, that is, principles of fairness. This is opposed to general civil litigation where a finding that the action was frivolous or without merit is typically necessary for a party to be awarded attorney’s fees. Accordingly, and broadly speaking, it is easier for parties to get an award of attorney’s fees in divorce actions than it is in a normal civil lawsuit.
More specifically, in awarding attorney’s fees in Denver and Colorado divorce actions based on principles of fairness, the court considers the financial position of both of the parties. Since the decision is one of equity, awarding attorneys’ fees can be used by the court to offset a disparity in financial resources between the parties. For example, if one party will end up with significantly more assets or has a significantly higher earning power than the other party, the court may award attorney’s fees to the party with lesser assets or earning power to offset the disparity.
While it may be easier to receive an award of attorney’s fees in a divorce action as compared to a general lawsuit, that does not mean that attorney’s fees will be awarded simply because the parties end up with unequal financial resources after the divorce or have unequal earning power. Generally speaking, the disparity must be relatively large for attorney’s fees to be awarded. As an example of the financial disparity needed for attorneys’ fees to be awarded, in one particular case the husband had significantly higher earning power than the wife, approximately 10 times as much. Because of the disparity and a few other factors, the trial court was ordered to reconsider whether or not to award attorney’s fees to the wife where the trial court had previously denied attorney’s fees. See In re Marriage of Renier, 854 P.2d 1382 (Colo.App. 1993).
If attorney’s fees are awarded to a party, the fees must be reasonable when considering all the circumstances of the case. Put in other words, the fees cannot be excessive for the services actually rendered. Accordingly, if attorney’s fees are awarded to the other party, it may be worth requesting a hearing to determine whether the fees are reasonable. That way a party can ensure that they will not be responsible for paying an exorbitant amount and that the attorney for the other side did not simply inflate fees to collect more money. However, if a hearing is desired, it must be timely requested otherwise the party responsible for paying the fees loses his or her right to dispute them.