The Court Of Attorney 's Fee Award

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Father finally alleges that the circuit court erred when it awarded Mother $20,000 in attorney’s fees. Mother asserts that the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees in this case was reasonable and that there is no support for the argument that the trial judge abused its discretion when making its attorney’s fee award. We agree with Mother. Under FL § 12-103, a court may award attorney’s fees to either party in a motion to modify a custody order, in a proceeding to recover arrearage of child-support, or to enforce a child support or visitation order. Prior to making an attorney’s fee award, however, the court must consider “(1) the financial status of each party; (2) the needs of each party; and (3) whether there was substantial justification for bringing, maintaining, or defending the proceeding.” FL § 12-103(b). Notably, if the court finds that there was no substantial justification for the litigation articulated in subsection (a), the court’s discretion to deny costs and fees diminishes and the court is compelled to award the aggrieved party costs and fees. FL § 12-103(c). Decisions concerning the award of counsel fees rest solely in the discretion of the trial judge. Jackson v. Jackson, 272 Md. 107, 111-12, 321 A.2d 162 (1974). The proper exercise of such discretion is determined by evaluating the judge’s application of the statutory criteria set forth above as well as the consideration of the facts of the particular case. Id. at 112, 321 A.2d 162.
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