Legal Memorandum: Award of Attorney's Fees in Dissolution Cases

Issue: When are attorney’s fees awarded in a Minnesota dissolution case?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Reasonable attorney's fees; Dissolution cases
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 409 N.W.2d 60; 516 N.W.2d 570; 533 N.W.2d 859; 594 N.W.2d 277
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 518.14 (1998), § 518.14, subd. 1, § 518.14, subd. 1(1)-(3) (1998); Minn. Stat. § 549.211, § 549.211, subd. 4(b)
Date: 05/01/2000

A court has the authority to award reasonable attorney’s fees in dissolution cases.  Minn. Stat. § 518.14 (1998).  The statute specifically indicates that “the court shall award attorney fees, costs, and disbursements in an amount necessary to enable a party to carry on or contest the proceeding.” Id. § 518.14, subd. 1. 

The award of fees under this statutory section lies within the discretion of the trial court.  Jensen v. Jensen, 409 N.W.2d 60, 63 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987).  Although the award is discretionary, the court must make specific findings of the factors upon which the award or denial of fees is based.  In re Marriage of Richards, 472 N.W.2d 162, 166 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).   In Richards, the court confirmed that a general determination of financial issues abutting these factors is not sufficient.  Id. at 166.

Under the statute, a court may award attorney’s fees if it finds that they are necessary, the party to whom they are awarded does not have the means to pay for them, and the party from whom they are sought does have the means to pay for them.  Johnson v. Johnson, 533 N.W.2d 859, 867 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995); Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1(1)-(3) (1998).  An award of attorney’s fees under § 518.14 is not entirely dependent upon the financial condition of the parties, although that may be considered as a factor.  Korf v. Korf, 553 N.W.2d 706, 711 (Minn. Ct. App. 1996).  Additional fees may […]

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