Court Summaries, 1221 WYBJ, Vol. 44 No. 6. 34
|Anna Reeves Olson
|Vol. 44 6 Pg. 34
Anna Reeves Olson
Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming
Kathryn Ann Heimer v. Mason William Heimer
2021 WY 97
Kathryn (Mother) and Mason (Father) Heimer were divorced with two minor children. Mother had primary custody. Following the divorce, Mother filed multiple post-divorce motions. Mother’s fifth motion to show cause requested Father be held in contempt because he paid child support by direct wire transfer to Mother’s bank account instead of through the State Disbursement Unit, which caused Mother to incur $10 per transfer in bank fees each time. She also alleged that Father harassed her by sending her mean and derogatory text messages. In support of her harassment claim, Mother filed 148 pages of text messages from the last two years. Finally, she requested attorney fees.
The district court held a 30-minute hearing on the motion. Mother’s attorney discussed the harassing nature of Father’s communications and suggested the court would find Father in contempt if it read through the text messages. The court stated it had looked very carefully at Mother’s motion to find specific allegations of Father’s misconduct in violation of the supplemental divorce decree and found only “some very broad language that Father was making mean and derogatory statements to Mother.” The court said, “I guess you’re asking me to review and pull out of [the 148 pages of text messages] the allegations which I believe violate the court’s Supplemental Order. I’m not willing to do that.”
The district court issued an oral ruling finding Father in contempt for his failure to follow the clear language of the divorce decree that required him to pay child support through the State Disbursement Unit. The court ordered Father to pay Mother $210 for her bank fees and $100 for her attorney fees.
Five weeks later, Mother requested a three-hour evidentiary hearing on her fifth motion and filed a motion to reconsider the $100 fee award, citing the fee shifting provision in the divorce decree, and stating that she had incurred $12,266.01 in legal fees in connection with that motion.
On appeal, the Wyoming Supreme Court reversed with regard to awarding mother $100 for her attorney’s fees. The divorce decree provided that in the event one party was required to take legal action to enforce it, that party would be entitled to recover all costs and attorney fees of such an action. However, the fees must be “reasonable under the lodestar test: the product of reasonable hours times a reasonable rate.”
Even when fees are expressly provided for, “a trial court has the discretion to exercise its equitable control to allow only such sum as is reasonable or the court may properly disallow attorney’s fees altogether on the basis that such recovery would be inequitable.” “There must, however, be some proof or evidentiary basis for determining a reasonable fee.”
However, here the district court did not provide an evidentiary basis for awarding Mother $100 on her motion, other than to explain she only prevailed on one of her three allegations. Because the district court did not give some proof or evidentiary basis for the $100 award, it abused its discretion. The Court...
To continue readingRequest your trial