Attorney Fees

In Maryland the courts may award either party the “reasonable and necessary” counsel fees, suit money, and costs in divorce, alimony (including alimony pendente lite, alimony modification, and alimony enforcement), and monetary award proceedings after considering the financial resources and financial needs of both parties and whether there was substantial justification for prosecuting or defending the proceeding. In a proceeding for child custody, child support, or visitation (including initial awards, modifications, and enforcement) the court may award either party the costs and counsel fees that are “just and proper under all the circumstances” after considering the financial status and financial needs of each party, and whether there was substantial justification for bringing, maintaining, or defending the proceeding. Suit money includes such expenses as counsel fees, expert witness fees, private investigator costs, vocational rehabilitation counselors, deposition costs, travel expenses, investigation expenses and court costs where such expenses are “reasonable and necessary.”

MD Rule 1-341 provides allows the Court to issue an award of attorney fees against a party whom the Court finds lacks substantial justification for prosecuting or defending a proceeding or has acted in bad faith in maintaining or defending a civil action.  Under this Rule the Court may award the other party the reasonable and necessary expense of prosecuting or defending the proceeding, unless the court finds good cause to the contrary.

In practice, courts typically reserve the attorney fees issue to the merits hearing for determination rather than awarding attorney fees at a pendente lite hearing, rarely find lack of substantial justification warranting imposition of a mandatory award, and the ultimate awards, if any, are usually not substantial and almost certainly will not account for the entire legal fees and costs incurred by any litigant.

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