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Attorney’s Fees in Frivolous Appeal

Deborah Elkins//January 12, 2012

Attorney’s Fees in Frivolous Appeal

Deborah Elkins//January 12, 2012

The Court of Appeals affirms a trial court visitation order modifying a parenting agreement incorporated in the parties’ divorce decree after father in anger injured one of the four children; limiting father’s visitation is reasonable and attorney’s fees are imposed for this frivolous appeal.

Father and mother divorced in 1999 and the final decree incorporated a detailed parenting agreement for custody and visitation of the parties’ four children, except summer visitation left for judicial determination.  About one year later, mother petitioned for sole custody and supervised visitation based on an incident in which father seriously injured one child by stepping on him in anger.  Child Protective Services (CPS) intervened and terminated father’s visitation temporarily.  Following a four-day hearing, the trial court ruled orally that father’s summer visitation should be broken up into four one-week periods during June and July; the court also ordered father into anger management counseling and therapy for one child who refused to visit with him.  The court repeated schedule at father’s request.  Father moved for clarification of the summer schedule. The trial court denied treating it as a motion for reconsideration and made clear father was awarded four weeks summer visitation.

On appeal, father argues the trial court abused in discretion in denying him visitation in August and his motion for clarification.  We affirm. The record shows the trial court considered the ten factors prescribed in § 20-124.3 for determining the children’s best interests with particular attention to factors two, three, four and nine. The statute expressly authorizes decisions orally or in writing and our decisions hold that detailed elaboration is not required so long as the record shows each factor was considered.  Here the trial court expressly and painstakingly addressed each factor in determining it was in the children’s best interests for father to have four weeks visitation in June and July and no contact with him in August.   Father may be dissatisfied with the schedule but has shown no abuse of discretion.  The court’s ruling was clear and this appeal is frivolous.  We award mother her appellate attorney’s fees remand to determine the amount.

Craven v. Williamson (Frank) No. 1023-11-4, Jan. 10, 2012; Fairfax County Cir. Ct. (Schell) Melinda L. VanLowe for appellant; James Ray Cottrell for appellee. VLW 012-7-004(UP), 7 pp.

VLW 012-7-004

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