Arbitrator Erred by Ordering Husband to Pay Wife’s Attorney Fees

Case: Robert A. Masters v. Leah Masters
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Adjudicating a dissolution of marriage, an arbitrator erred by ordering Husband to pay $95,000 towards Wife’s attorney’s fees, because the arbitrator’s order did not consider Husband’s ability to pay $95,000 in light of Husband’s income, expenses, assets, and his other obligations to Wife under the Decree.

While the Court of Appeals noted that a trial court in a marriage dissolution matter has broad discretion to award fees, “[w]e hold that the arbitrator’s findings are clearly erroneous because they do not demonstrate Husband’s ability to pay the fee assessed him.”  To the contrary, the evidence was that Husband had annual income of $80,000, that Husband was assessed a child support arrearage of over $17,000, and that the $95,000 fee award exceeded the value of Husband’s share of the total marital estate.

The attorney fee award was reversed and remanded with instructions for the entry of a reasonable fee award under the totality of the circumstances.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Robert A. Masters v. Leah Masters


James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at

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