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Legal Memorandum: Attorney Fees in a Child Support Matter

Issue: Whether the trial court acted within its discretion and in accordance with A.R.S.  25-324 in awarding attorney fees in a child support matter?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Attorney fees; Child support matter
Jurisdiction: Arizona
Cited Cases: 946 P.2d 1291; 190 Ariz. 231; 184 Ariz. 301
Cited Statutes: A.R.S. § 25-324
Date: 08/01/2008

“The decision whether to award attorneys’ fees lies within the trial court’s sound discretion, ‘the the focus on the parties’ relative abilities to pay the fees incurred’ in accord with A.R.S. section 25-324.”  Pearson v. Pearson, 190 Ariz. 231, 946 P.2d 1291, 1296 (Ct. App. 1997).  Accord Burnette v. Bender, 184 Ariz. 301, 908 P.2d 1086, 1901 (Ct. App. 1995).  The sole consideration when determining whether to award attorney’s fees under A.R.S. § 25-324 is the financial resources of the parties.  Id. at 305, 908 P.2d at 1090.  See A.R.S. § 25-324 (court may “after considering the financial resources of both parties and the reasonableness of the positions each party has taken throughout the proceedings,” award attorney fees).

In Burnette, the Court of Appeals observed that “intransigence” resulting in “prolonged litigation” was “no legal reason to deny relief pursuant to section 25-324.”  184 Ariz. at 306, 908 P.2d at 1091.  There is no authority in A.R.S. § 25-324 for refusing attorney fees in child support proceedings based on prehearing settlement negotiations; rather, only the parties’ financial resources and the reasonableness of the parties’ positions in the proceedings are relevant factors. 

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