On February 4th, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued a published opinion on the issue of divorce legal fees. In the case of Colen v. Colen, the wife filed a request for contribution towards her Michigan divorce attorney fees incurred over several years.
Divorce Legal Fees – The law
The legal basis to request contribution towards legal fees in a divorce action can be found in both the Michigan Court Rules and Statutory Laws.
Michigan Court Rule 3.206(D)(1) expressly allows a party to seek attorney fees from the other party in a divorce action, including post-judgment proceedings.
The authority to request contribution towards divorce attorney fees can also be found in Michigan Compiled Laws section 552.12(1) which provides:
552.12 Suit; conduct, power of court.
Sec. 12. Suits to annul or affirm a marriage, or for a divorce, shall be conducted in the same manner as other suits in courts of equity; and the court shall have the power to award issues, to decree costs, and to enforce its decrees, as in other cases.MCL 552.12
and Michigan Compiled Laws section 552.13(1) provides in relevant part that:
[i]n every action brought, either for a divorce or for a separation, the court may require either party . . . to pay any sums necessary to enable the adverse party to carry on or defend the action, during its pendency.”Divorce Attorney Fees statute
Key learning: Click here to learn how to have your spouse pay your divorce legal fees.
What happened to Ms. Colen’s fee request?
The Colen’s divorced on April 10, 2013 and the wife was awarded sole care and custody of the parties three minor children. From March 2014 through April 2016, the trial court addressed various disputes between he parties involving the children and property division arising from the divorce case. Two years after the trial court issued its ruling, the wife filed a request for attorney fees.
In denying Ms. Colen’s request attorney fees, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that she waited too long (over two years) to make the request. The Court providing: “. . .that a request for divorce attorney fees must be brought within a reasonable time . . . and that what constitutes a reasonable time depends on the particular facts and circumstances of each case .”
Therefore, a delay in requesting divorce attorney fees could result in a denial of the fees. Simply put, don’t wait to ask for divorce attorney fees or you may lose the right to receive them.
Your Questions answered by the Michigan Divorce and Family Law Specialists at Findling Law.
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By: Daniel Findling
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