ISC Holds Attorney Fees Made By Family Law Arbitrator are Subject to Same Appellate Review as a Trial Court Hearing a Marriage Dissolution

Case: Steven M. Kelly v. Rebecca J. Kelly
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Indiana Supreme Court holds that an attorney fee award made by a family law arbitrator, acting pursuant to the Family Law Arbitration Act, is subject to the same standard of appellate review as an attorney fee award made by a trial court hearing a marriage dissolution matter. In this instance, the arbitrator’s $95,000 attorney fee award was not error.

Husband had successfully argued to the Court of Appeals (see digest, below) that the arbitrator’s $95,000 fee award was clearly erroneous given that Husband’s share of the marital estate was “approximately $94,000…plus forty percent of some unvalued coins.” Thus, Husband argued, the fee award was unreasonable due to Husband’s lack of ability to pay it. However, the Indiana Supreme Court noted that the coin collection at issue was extremely valuable, and that Husband’s 40% share was worth approximately $121,000. In light of the totality of the circumstances, the arbitrator’s fee award was not error and was affirmed.

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

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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