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John v. Bolinder

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 13, 2019

J. DAVID JOHN APPELLANT
v.
MEGAN MARIE BOLINDER APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04DR-10-1327] HONORABLE DOUG SCHRANTZ, JUDGE.

          Cullen & Co., PLLC, by: Tim Cullen, for appellant.

          Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik, PLLC, by: Mason L. Boling, for appellee.

          OPINION

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.

         This domestic-relations appeal arises from long-running and contentious litigation between appellant J. David John (David) and appellee Megan Marie Bolinder (Megan). The only issue in this appeal involves attorney's fees. In an order entered on December 14, 2017, the trial court ordered David to pay Megan $29, 140 in attorney's fees. David argues that the attorney's-fee award should be reversed in its entirety because the trial court lacked the authority to award them, and also because Megan's motion for attorney's fees was untimely. We affirm as modified.

         David and Megan were never married but they share a son, Isaiah, who was born on March 12, 2010. On February 9, 2012, the trial court entered an order awarding primary custody of the child to Megan, while awarding David visitation and ordering him to pay child support.[1] David appealed this initial award of custody, visitation, and child support, raising several issues on appeal. Megan cross-appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in its calculation of David's child support. In John v. Bolinder, 2013 Ark.App. 224, we affirmed the direct appeal but reversed and remanded the cross-appeal with instructions for the trial court to use a different method to calculate David's child-support obligation.

         On remand, the trial court entered an order that substantially increased David's child-support obligation. Additional litigation ensued, and more orders were entered. On December 9, 2013, the trial court entered an order of dismissal without prejudice, on David's motion, dismissing David's claims for change of custody and child support, or alternatively to modify visitation. On February 27, 2014, the trial court entered an order granting Megan's petition to modify David's visitation.

         On November 26, 2014, David filed a motion for the release of Megan's medical records. On April 28, 2015, David filed a motion to modify child support and to modify visitation. Meanwhile, Megan had filed a motion for contempt against David. After a hearing on the motions, the trial court entered an order on June 30, 2015, denying David's request for the release of Megan's medical records and denying David's motion to modify visitation. David appealed from that order, but we dismissed the appeal for lack of a final order because David's motion to modify child support and Megan's contempt motion remained unresolved. See John v. Bolinder, 2016 Ark.App. 357, 498 S.W.3d 307.

         After our dismissal, Megan's motion for contempt was denied. Megan was also awarded $2080 in attorney's fees, apparently in relation to her defense of David's motions for the release of her medical records and to modify child support and visitation. On September 29, 2016, David filed a motion to change custody, or alternatively expand visitation, and reduce child support.

         Additional motions were filed, and more orders were entered. Relevant to this appeal, the trial court entered an order on February 2, 2017, denying David's motion for the trial court to recuse, and entered an order on June 23, 2017, denying David's petition to hold Megan in contempt.

         On September 12, 2017, Megan filed a petition for attorney's fees, which is the motion precipitating the trial court's most recent attorney's-fee award and giving rise to this appeal. In that petition, Megan requested a total of $29, 140 in attorney's fees, with the following specifics:

5. That the total amount of attorneys' fees billed to [Megan] by my firm on the matter of Motion for Change of Custody, Child Support, or Alternatively Modify Visitation filed August 12, 2013, is $10, 680.00. That this sum includes 53.4 billable hours.
6. That the total amount of attorneys' fees billed to [Megan] by firm for responding to motions filed by [David] which were ultimately denied by the Court less a previous award of attorney's fees in the amount of $2, 080.00 is $8, 720.00. That this sum includes 54 billable hours.
6.[sic] That the total amount of attorneys' fees billed to [Megan] by my firm on the matter of Motion for Change of Custody and, Alternatively to Expand Visitation and Reduce Child support filed September 29, 2016, is $9, ...

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