Expert Witness Testimony in Colorado Divorce and Child Custody and Family Support Cases Pertaining to Attorney's Fees and Costs
It is often necessary to have expert witness testimony in Colorado Divorce, child custody and family support cases. In general, an expert witness may give an opinion while a lay witness can not give an opinion as to anything outside of his or her firsthand knowledge.
Sometimes a court may order one party to pay the other's attorney's fees and issues of reasonableness of the fees may arise. If the payor objects to the reasonableness of the fees, then an expert may be necessary to opine on the reasonableness. Fees relate to the attorney's time spent working on the case and costs include collateral expenses such as court filing, expert witness retention, depositions, etc. If the issues of reasonableness or necessity are is raised, the court must hold a hearing. Trial courts consider a variety of factors in determining the reasonableness of a fee request.
A common method to evaluate the reasonableness of requested fees is the Lodestar Method. Using this method, the court considers several factors including generally:
- the amount of fees in dispute,
- the length of time spent on representation,
- case complexity,
- the value of the legal services.
- fees in similar cases, and
- case outcome.
As part of the request for fees, the attorney must present an Affidavit of Fees charged to the court and it is customary to attach a redacted bill with an itemized list of all work completed. The affidavit should include a description of the experience and background of the attorneys and support staff who provided services to the client. This can be a redacted version of the billing invoices sent to the client. The listing will include the identification of each staff member's activities on the case and their individual billing rates and totals. Pro bono attorneys may request attorney's fees as well. In domestic relations cases the court also considers the relative financial situations of the parties.Case Profile: In re Marriage of Mockelmann, 944 P.2d 670 (Colo. App. 1997).
Husband requested review of an order issued by the District Court of the City and County of Denver, awarding temporary attorney fees and expert witness fees to Wife under C.R.S. § 14-10-108 in a dissolution of marriage without a hearing, despite Husband's request for one. The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the temporary order and remanded the case for a hearing because due process required the trial court to hold a hearing upon the husband's request.
The Court of Appeals determined that the trial court must consider the reasonableness and necessity of the fees citing to In re Marriage of Rieger, 827 P.2d 625 (Colo. App. 1992). When a hearing is requested on the reasonableness and necessity of attorney fees, due process requires a hearing. The Court determined that a temporary award of fees is a final order subject to appeal. The appellate court also noted that the trial court had not made factual findings on the as to how it determined the reasonableness and necessity of the fees awarded to Wife. The order was reversed and remanded.Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado Springs
A knowledgeable and experienced divorce and family law attorney can guide you through Colorado Springs divorce and family law matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. Give yourself the benefit of hiring one. This allows you to focus on moving on to a better future instead of spending your time attempting to navigate complex legal rules and procedures.
Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who protects your best interests and ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.