The case of Eberbach vs. Eberbach (No. M2013-02852-COA-R3-CV, Tennessee Court of Appeals, Dec 23, 2014), involves litigation over child support and the parenting schedule. Mother and Father divorced in May of 2011. A permanent parenting plan was part of the final divorce decree. In September of 2012, Father filed a petition for a decrease in child support and requested Mother’s federal income tax returns along with other documents. Mother produced a portion of the documents upon Father’s second motion to compel in May of 2013. In July, the court issued an order for the remaining documents from Mother and also for Father’s tax returns.
Father once again filed for contempt in July of 2013. Father argued that the tax returns produced by the Mother were unsigned and incomplete. He also requested $18,307.50 to cover money spent trying to obtain Mother’s tax information. In July of 2013, Mother filed a motion to compel regarding information requested from Father.
Trial was held in September, and two orders were entered. The first order stated that Mother had complied with all of the discovery requests from Father, but that Father had failed to produce his tax return. Father was again ordered to produce his returns from 2011 and 2012. The second order denied Father’s request for contempt and damages and awarded Mother her attorney fees for responding to Father’s motions. Mother was granted attorney fees of $10,000 based on the hourly rates outlined in the affidavit of attorney’s fees, which cited a total of $13,900.
Father filed two motions to amend and a hearing was held in November 2013. Father’s attorney argued that the amount of attorney fees ordered by the court was unreasonable. However, Father’s attorney failed to provide evidence of this claim or point out any specific entry in the affidavit that was objectionable. The court denied both of Father’s motions along with his request to lower the attorney fees. Father appealed this decision in December.
The court of appeals consulted several laws and regulations when reviewing the case. First, the American Rule states that one must pay one’s own court fees unless it is otherwise stated by statute or contract. Further, Tennessee Code states that one may seek reasonable compensation for attorney fees from one’s spouse in any case regarding child support or custody. This statute has allowed for the frequent award of attorney fees in the state. These fees will not be reversed unless the record contains some evidence that the amount of the fees is unreasonable. On appeal, father claimed that the affidavit used to establish the fees was insufficient, but The Court of Appeals declined to address this issue, as it was not presented previously in the trial court.
In summation, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments of the Trial Court. Court costs will be taxed to Father. Mother also sought an award of her attorney fees from Father, stating that his appeal was frivolous. The Court of Appeals did not find the appeal as devoid of merit and declines Mother’s request.