Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Case Law Development: North Carolina Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Attorney Fees in Pro Bono Divorce Case

A North Carolina woman who sought attorney fees despite being represented for free in a child support and custody case isn't entitled to have her legal bills paid, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. At a hearing on alimony and lawyer fees, the woman’s attorney said he had incurred costs of about $2,400 and asked that his client be given that amount. A lower court judge found that she wasn’t due any money from the courts since the lawyer had agreed to represent her for free.  The trial court had found that the woman’s ex-husband earned $81,000 a year operating a hair salon while she earned $14,000 a year working at a beauty supply house and her expenses exceeded her income by about $1,000 a month. The dissent observed that the fact that the wife's legal services were provided pro bono was of no consequence in determining whether she is eligible for an award of attorney fees. He wrote that "The fact that wife could not pay her counsel's fees does not mean that the services provided by a sympathetic lawyer were without value."  Source:  WRAL.com. For the complete story, please click here (last visited January 4, 2006, reo).  To read the full opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Patronelli v. Patronelli, filed January 3, 2006, please click here (last visited January 4, 2006, reo).

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