Attorneys Fee Award Requires Evidence

The Issue of attorney's fees often comes up in domestic litigation. Missouri has adopted the American Rule regarding attorney's fees in that, absent statutory authorization or contractual agreemtn, each litigant, absent few exceptions, must bear the expense of their own attorney's feesl However, Missouri's dissolution of marriage law allows the court to order one party to pay the other's attorney's fees, but the court must consider all relevant factors including the financial resources of both parties, the merits of the case, and the actions of the parties during the action. The inability of one spouse to pay his or her own or the other party's attorney's fees is not determinitive. Some examples supporting an award of fees would include unfounded allegations of child abuse, concealing assets, abuse of discovery, and failure to appear for trial.

Recent Case
The Party seeking an award of attorney fees has the burden of proof to show that an award of attorneys fees is appropriate. In the recent case cited below, the record contains some evidence of father's financial resources—retirement and disability—but none on Mother's financial resources or on "any unusual circumstances warranting departure from Missouri's adoption of the American rule requiring each litigant to bear their own expenses." Circuit Court abused its discretion in awarding fees. Reversed.
Tina Marie Hihn, Respondent, v. Joseph Alexander Hihn, Appellant. Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District