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Family Law Section Discusses Attorney Fees: How to Get What You Want and Keep Them on Appeal

Attorney Tina Shadix Roddenbery of the firm Holland Roddenbery LLC, spoke at the breakfast meeting of the DeKalb Bar Association Family Law Section on March 2. She talked about how attorney fees are awarded only by statute and described how each statute requires different elements to secure an award. For instance, OCGA § 19-6-2 gives courts the discretion to award attorney fees in cases of divorce, alimony, and contempt arising out of divorce or alimony, but only after consideration of the parties’ financial circumstances. Compare OCGA § 19-9-3(g), which gives courts the authority to award attorney fees in custody modification actions without any consideration of the parties’ financial circumstances.

 In addition to specifying the statutory basis for attorney fees, lawyers must also prove the reasonableness of the fees. Ms. Roddenbery cited the Georgia State Bar Rules and Regs Standard 31 and William J. Cooney, P.C. v. Rowland, 240 Ga.App. 703, 706 (1999) for the relevant factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of attorney fees. Factors include the time and labor required, the difficulty of the questions involved, the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar services, the amount of money involved and results obtained, the length of relationship with the client, the lawyer’s experience, and whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

The take-away from Ms. Roddenbery’s presentation is that you have a better chance of having attorney fees awarded if you cite the applicable statute, meet the elements of that statute, and show the reasonableness of the requested fees. Additionally, under OCGA § 7-4-12, you can get interest on attorney fees.

Judge Christopher McFadden of the Georgia Court of Appeals attended. Section Chair Alice Limehouse presided over the program. The Sponsor Spotlight featured Marty Varon of AIG who talked about the other services his firm offers outside of family law. He shared a story of investigating a lunch lady who was stealing kids’ lunch money.

The Family Law Section invites you to our next breakfast on Thursday, May 4 at 7:30 AM in the Historic DeKalb Courthouse. The speaker is TBA, but you can check the DeKalb Bar calendar and RSVP here.

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