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A North Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s decision to deny a woman compensation for attorney fees in the divorce case that was taken by her attorney for free. When Carrie Patronelli and her husband separated after four years of marriage, each parent fought for child custody and child support, and disagreed on the distribution of property. Though Carrie’s attorney represented her at no cost, she solicited the court for compensation of attorney fees.
The divorcing wife’s attorney argued at a hearing over alimony and attorney fees, that he incurred $2,400 in costs for representing his client. The divorce attorney requested that his client be compensated for these fees, though technically they were not out-of-pocket expenses for his client.
A lower court judge ruled that she was not entitled to any money for attorney fees. The appeals court upheld this decision by a 2-1 vote. The dissenting judge felt that state law was broad enough to allow her to be compensated for attorney fees and pointed out that other states allow for this form of compensation.