SC allows a court to award attorney fees to one party at the conclusion of a case. There are some factors a court considers, but the court has discretion. However, the losing party may want to appeal attorney fees if they do not agree with the award. Buist v. Buist tells us when appealing attorney fees is proper.
What Happened in the Case
Husband and Wife married and had one kid. Wife filed for divorce eight years later. The divorce was a no-fault divorce. After the final hearing, Wife’s attorney requested $15,000 in attorney fees. Husband did not object to this request. But, he did submit his own fee request for an earlier rule to show cause motion. In the final decree, the court ordered Husband to pay $8,000 towards Wife’s attorney fees and costs. Wife also had to pay for Husband’s fees of $3,050. Husband appealed the award of attorney fees for Wife. The court denied his motion.
Husband then appealed to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the family court on the grounds Husband did not preserve his appeal. Husband did not challenge Wife’s request for fees. Thus, the family court never ruled on the issue. Therefore, he could not appeal the issue. Husband then appealed the SC Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals. However, the Court disagreed with the test that the court of appeals used. The Court found that Husband’s motion to reconsider was a timely challenge. He did not need to challenge the request when Wife made it. Thus, Husband could appeal the issue. But, the Court found that Husband did not appeal the right issue. He appealed the time frame given to pay the fees and not the amount of the award. Thus, Husband was not specific enough, and he did not preserve the right issue on appeal.
Appealing Attorney Fees
If you do not like a court’s ruling, appealing attorney fees may be the right choice. Even if you lose the first time, you can then appeal that issue after the hearing.
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