in the Court of Appeals 23 February 2017.
by defendant from order entered 23 March 2016 by Judge
Christy T. Mann in District Court, Mecklenburg County, No.
Allen Schneider, pro se, plaintiff-appellee.
Plumides, Romano, Johnson & Cacheris, PC, by Richard B.
Johnson, for defendant-appellant.
the trial court may have misapprehended its ability to
consider the financial circumstances of the defendant Mother
in awarding attorney fees to plaintiff Father under North
Carolina General Statute § 50-13.6, we reverse the order
awarding attorney fees to Father and remand to the trial
court for reconsideration of this issue.
case arises from a long and contentious custody case. After
their separation, plaintiff-Father filed a complaint in 2013
against defendant-Mother with claims for emergency temporary
custody, permanent custody, child support, equitable
distribution, interim distribution, appointment for a
guardian ad litem, and attorney fees. We need not go into
great detail regarding the multiple claims here, but the
custody dispute centered in large part around Mother's
move to Mississippi with the children. Over the years the
trial court entered several orders but the only one at issue
on appeal is from March of 2016, when the trial court ordered
Mother to pay Father $30, 000.00 for attorney fees pursuant
to North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.6. Mother
only argument on appeal is that the court erred by awarding
Father $30, 000.00 in attorney fees.
In an action or proceeding for the custody or support, or
both, of a minor child, including a motion in the cause for
the modification or revocation of an existing order for
custody or support, or both, the court may in its discretion
order payment of reasonable attorney's fees to an
interested party acting in good faith who has insufficient
means to defray the expense of the suit. Before ordering
payment of a fee in a support action, the court must find as
a fact that the party ordered to furnish support has refused
to provide support which is adequate under the circumstances
existing at the time of the institution of the action or
proceeding; provided however, should the court find as a fact
that the supporting party has initiated a frivolous action or
proceeding the court may order payment of reasonable
attorney's fees to an interested party as deemed
appropriate under the circumstances.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.6 (2015). "Whether these
statutory requirements have been met is a question of law,
reviewable on appeal. Only when these requirements have been
met does the standard of review change to abuse of discretion
for an examination of the amount of attorney's fees
awarded." Doan v. Doan, 156 N.C.App. 570, 575,
577 S.E.2d 146, 150 (2003) (citation and quotation marks
first contends that the trial court "failed to make
detailed findings of fact regarding [Father's] inability
to defray the costs of the lawsuit" as is required under
North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.6. See
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.6. Mother cites to Dixon v.
Gordon, wherein this Court reversed and remanded to the
trial court because
the only findings of fact were that father does not have
sufficient funds with which to employ and pay legal counsel .
. . to meet Mother on an equal basis. Although information
regarding father's gross income and employment was
present in the record in father's testimony, there are no
findings in the trial court's order which detail this
information. We believe that because the findings in this
case contain little ...