You Can Request and Win Counsel Fees in Custody Cases!
I have been practicing all types of law for over 20 years. Over the past couple of years, I have been focusing my practice on some high-profile, high-stakes cases in the state Supreme Court and federal courts in Pennsylvania, and on managing the law firm. Once those cases concluded, I returned to the general practice of law and have been handling family law and in particular custody cases again.
I am shocked – all over again – at how many meritless and downright frivolous filings occur in custody litigation regularly. While civil litigators in state and federal courts worry over every word in their pleadings to make sure each word is correct and each averment of fact and legal claim is supported by the evidence, family law is almost like another world. Since my return to the family law practice, I have been on the receiving end of several meritless petitions filed in custody court. And, so now, I am filing counterclaims for counsel fees for the time spent having to respond to these frivolous petitions. And, I have been winning.
In one case, earlier, my client, the mother, texted the opposing party, the father, and asked if she could obtain a hunting license for their son so that the maternal grandfather could take the child hunting. The father texted in response, “That sounds great – no reservations from me.” The Father then sent her the child’s Social Security Card so that she could get the license. The mother, sometime later, got the child his hunting license. Later, the Father asked her about the child’s hunting license because he wanted to take the child hunting. My client said “no problem” and that she had already obtained his hunting license. Stunningly, the father then sued my client for contempt of court for allegedly failing to obtain his consent to obtain the hunting license – even though he had previously consented to it and wanted to take the child hunting! So, in response to his petition, I filed an answer and attached the screenshot of Father’s text to my client. But I also filed a counterclaim for counsel fees on the grounds that Father’s Petition for Contempt was obdurate, vexatious, repetitive, or in bad faith per 23 Pa.C.S. § 5339 because Father had previously consented to the hunting license and only filed the Petition for Contempt against my client because we had previously filed and won a Petition for Contempt against Father on an unrelated matter. The judge granted my counterclaim for counsel fees and ordered the Father to pay up. Father had to drop off a check at my office. In retrospect, this entire experience was a complete waste of my and the court’s time and the parties’ resources.
But, that’s part and parcel of the practice of family law! If you have questions or concerns about family law or custody in particular, do not hesitate to call our office for a consultation at 717-657-7770.