Family Law: Notice of Attorney Fee Lien

Case: Richard A. Clem v. Paul J. Watts 
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll (with thanks to Tamara McMillian)

While this is not a family law case per se, I thought it might be of interest to many of you. The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that the attorney fee lien statute requires that a notice of intent to hold an attorney fee lien be filed within 60 days after entry of the judgment in question, and filing it prior to the entry of the judgment does not result in a valid lien for the attorney.

In the facts of the case, Wife changed counsel while her divorce was pending. The discharged attorney filed his notice of attorney fee lien for $5,649 within a few weeks of withdrawing. About a year later, the final decree was issued, which included an order for Husband’s counsel to pay $29,749 to Wife, using funds from Husband. Husband’s counsel made the distribution to Wife without regard to the fee lien filed by Wife’s prior counsel. The Court of Appeals held that the fee lien was not valid, since it was filed prior to the subject judgment being entered. The Court rejected the argument that the statute’s requirement that the fee lien be filed “not later than sixty (60) days after the date the judgment is rendered” includes any date prior to the judgment being rendered.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Richard A. Clem v. Paul J. Watts

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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 www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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