Assume your divorce case is pending. You have a temporary order in place directing the other party to pay child support and make the car payment. The other party does not follow the court orders, and you cite the other party for contempt of court. If you are successful, can you ask for a judgment for attorneys fees? In Buckingham v. Buckingham, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals says yes, you can ask.
Mrs. Buckingham filed her divorce petition. The assigned judge issued a temporary order. The order directed Mr. Buckingham to pay child support and make car payments. Mrs. Buckingham filed an application for contempt alleging Mr. Buckingham failed to pay as ordered. The court held a jury trial. The jury found Mr. Buckingham guilty of contempt for failure to pay on the car as ordered (but not guilty as to child support payments). The divorce was still pending.
Mrs. Buckingham’s attorneys filed her motion to assess attorneys fees regarding the contempt action. The contempt judge (who was not the divorce judge) heard evidence on the motion before the divorce judge granted a decree of dissolution, and granted the judgment for attorneys fees related to the contempt action after the other judge entered a decree of dissolution. Mr. Buckingham appealed. He argued there is no statutory authority for an award of attorney fees to enforce a temporary order in a domestic case.
The American Rule regarding attorney fees is that each party pays their own unless there is a contract or a statute authorizing a different outcome. The appellate court holds that 43 O.S. §110(E) authorizes awarding attorney fees related to enforcement of a temporary order.