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Judges affirm man must pay $5,000 in attorney fees to ex-wife

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An Allen County man was unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse the order he pay $5,000 in attorney fees to his ex-wife in litigation over their child’s contact with the ex-wife’s new husband.

When Kelley Kelly and Tiffany Kravec divorced, they shared legal custody of T.K. with Kelly having primary physical custody. After a petition to modify custody was filed, Kelly, Kravec and their spouses underwent psychological evaluations. T.K.’s stepfather was required to have an independent evaluation based on his answers and was not to be alone with T.K. There was an allegation that he had used an abusive punishment with his own child. The stepfather immediately completed the evaluation, which found the claim unsubstantiated. But Kelly for two years continued to resist removing the provision that T.K. only be allowed supervised contact with her stepfather.

The issue eventually went to mediation, where the parties agreed T.K. could be left alone with her stepfather. Over the course of the two years, Kravec sought attorney fees from Kelly, but that was not mentioned in the stipulation.

The trial court awarded Kravec $5,000 for attorney fees.

In Kelley L. Kelly v. Tiffany L. Kravec, 02A05-1304-DR-158, Kelly argued that the trial court’s award of attorney fees was erroneous because Kravec’s conduct was the cause of her attorney fees; her attorney fee request was barred by res judicata; and the trial court did not hold a separate hearing on the reasonableness of Kravec’s attorney fees.

“Father’s argument that the trial court’s award of attorney fees was improper because Mother’s misconduct was responsible for the delay in resolving the supervised contact issue is nothing more than a request that we reweigh the evidence and witness credibility, which we will not do,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote.

“The 2012 Agreed Stipulation did not contain any provision regarding attorney fees but noted that all pending matters were scheduled for a future hearing. The trial court entered an order approving the parties’ 2012 Agreed Stipulation, but that order was not a final judgment because there were still matters pending before the trial court and because it did not dispose of all issues. Accordingly, claim preclusion does not apply because the 2012 Stipulated Agreement was not a final judgment,” he continued.

Lastly, the COA held because Kelly did not object to the admission of the fee affidavit, the reasonableness of the fees, or the lack of a separate evidentiary hearing, he waived appellate review of any argument challenging the lack of separate hearing or reasonableness of the fees.
 

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