Monday, July 31, 2006

Case Law Development: Attorneys Fees in Custody Litigation - Alaska's Approach

The Alaska Supreme Court holds that a prevailing party in actions to enforce custody under Alaska's version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) shall be awarded actual reasonable attorney's fees and expenses.  Alaska is the only state that has adopted general fee-shifting, allowing partial attorney's fees to the prevailing party as a matter of course in any case.  However, the court here noted that the UCCJEA provides for an award of reasonable attorney's fees to a prevailing party, and concluded that "reasonable actual fees are intended rather than reasonable partial fees" (as would be the result under general Alaska court rule).

This case also raised the issue of recovery of attorneys fees by legal services attorneys.  The prevailing party here was represented by  Alaska Legal Services Corporation.  Nonetheless, Alaska courts have been consistent in awarding attorneys fees even if the litigant is not personally responsible for fees to his or her attorney.  The court found an argument that petitioner's counsel had violated legal services legal services funding restrictions (which prohibit requests for attorneys fees) to be irrelevant, noting that the remedy for any such violation is with the funder not the court.

Vazquez v. Campbell, 2006 Alas. LEXIS 115 (July 28, 2006) bgf

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