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Friday, June 7, 2019

Djeric v Djeric, 2019 WL 2374070 (S.D. Ohio, 2019)[Serbia] [Necessary Costs and expenses] [Clearly inappropriate]

          In Djeric v Djeric, 2019 WL 2374070 (S.D. Ohio, 2019) after the Court ordered Mr. Djeric to return the parties’ child to Ms. Djeric in accordance with the Hague Convention, Ms. Djeric’s attorneys applied for attorneys’ fees and costs. The Court pointed out that Yazan Ashrawi and Zackary Stillings, attorneys with the law firm Frost Brown Todd LLC, represented Ms. Djeric in the matter on a pro bono basis and that their work was exceptional. Over approximately three months, Mr. Ashrawi worked more than 87 hours; Mr. Stillings worked 176 hours. They collectively requested $69,095.50 in attorneys’ fees and $1,059.59 in expenses, including court costs and the costs of travel, deposition transcripts, and printing.     

          Mr. Djeric argued any award of fees would be inequitable because Ms. Djeric was represented pro bono, while Mr. Djeric paid $18,000 for his attorney by emptying his savings account and exhausting his credit limits on two credit cards. He claimed he relied on a relative’s financial help to purchase the airfare to return his child to Ms. Djeric. Mr. Djeric offered his tax return to show his income last year was under $25,000. He also asserted that he had no personal property available to obtain another loan or a second mortgage. Additionally, Mr. Djeric argued that any award would be inequitable because it would significantly hinder his ability to provide for his newborn baby. Next, Mr. Djeric argued that any award of fees would be inappropriate and unnecessary since the purposes of ICARA’s fee-shifting mechanism are to restore Ms. Djeric to her original financial position and to deter Mr. Djeric from wrongfully retaining the child in the first place, neither of which applied here. The Court agreed in large part. It held that based on the purposes of ICARA’s fee-shifting mechanism and Mr. Djeric’s financial circumstances, it would be “clearly inappropriate” to require him to pay $70,155.09. See Montero-Garcia, 2013 WL 6048992, at *4–6; Mendoza v. Silva, 987 F. Supp. 2d 910, 917 (N.D. Iowa 2014); East Sussex Children Servs. v. Morris, 919 F. Supp. 2d 721, 734 (N.D. W.V. 2013). Mr. Djeric had a mistaken, but nevertheless good faith belief that the parties had agreed that he would take their child to the United States to attend school. Moreover, Mr. Djeric’s financial condition was such that it was “clearly inappropriate” to award significant legal fees against him, because he would be unable to pay $69,095.50 and still provide support to his children, and because an award would simply convert Ms. Djeric’s pro bono representation into a marital debt. Regarding the expenses and costs resulting from this case, however, the Court concluded that it was reasonable for Mr. Djeric to pay those, as a matter of equity. See Mendoza, 987 F. Supp. 2d at 917. The Court denied Ms. Djeric’s request for an award of attorney’s fees, and granted Ms, Djeric’s request for court costs and expenses. The Court ordered Mr. Djeric to pay $100.00 each month to Frost Brown Todd LLC, for a total amount of $1,059.59.

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