Ability to pay Not a Factor in Considering Award of Attorney Fees in Grandparent Visitation Cases

man hands waiting senior

C.T., Respondent, v. J.L.L., Appellant. 

A common question that arises in custody cases is whether the other party can be required to pay for attorney’s fees and expenses. As a general principle, litigants pay their own costs and attorney’s fees associated with litigation. However, in domestic relations litigation, there are statutes that authorize a court to award attorney’s fees and costs to the other party under certain circumstances. 

In cases where a grandparent is seeking rights of visitation for their grandchild, a court is authorized to award “reasonable attorneys fees and expenses to the prevailing party” in those cases. RSMo. § 452.402(7).  As opposed to the more general statute that requires an analysis of a party’s ability to pay attorney’s fees, in a grandparent’s visitation case, there is no such requirement. The court, in its own discretion, can order a non-prevailing party to pay attorney’s fees and litigation costs without any requirement that the Court even consider the resources of either party. Grandparent’s visitation cases are often complex matters that require the expertise of an experienced attorney. Whether you’re seeking visitation rights with a grandchild or are forced to respond to a lawsuit seeking grandparent visitation, we have the experience necessary to help you navigate this terrain.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District – ED110039