Going to see a lawyer is like going to the doctor. None of us want to do it. Just like we don’t ask to be sick, we don’t ask to have legal problems. In reality, we will all need the assistance of a doctor at some point over the course of our lives. Likewise, may of us will need the services of an attorney at some point in our lives. For a large portion of the population that need will arise within the setting of a divorce or custody case. Just like going to the doctor, no one relishes the notion of paying an attorney to help fix their legal problems. Contrary to common belief, there is no statute indicating that the “loser pays.” However, fortunately there are some instances in which statute provides litigants an opportunity to recoup attorney fees in a Denver divorce, custody, or child support case, depending on the facts and circumstances.
Below are some of the primary or common situations in which one might collect, or recoup, some of his or her attorney fees when going through a Colorado family law case.
1. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-119, the court in a divorce, child support, or custody case has the authority to allocate fees and costs. Specifically, statute indicates that the court can, after considering the financial resources of the parties, award attorney fees and costs for time periods before, during, or after the case. Section 119 only applies to cases brought under “Article 10,” which deals specifically with divorce, custody, and child support. C.R.S. 14-10-119 is not applicable to juvenile cases, such as a paternity case. Section 119 is utilized when there is a significant income or asset disparity between the parties and there is case law setting forth the notion that the purpose of this section is to equalize or balance the positions of the parties related to the cost of litigation. In essence, statute makes provisions for leveling the playing field in a finical sense so that the party with significantly greater resources cannot just steamroll over the other. Section 119 does not assign fault and should not be invoked based on bad behavior of the other party. One should keep in mind that fees or costs under 119 can be sought while the case is pending and one need not wait until the case is done. Litigants who are similarly, or even roughly, financially situated should not anticipate an award of fees under 119, unless one has an attorney and on does not. In those instances, a court might assess fees.