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JAMES EVERETT BUMGARNER v. BARBARA ATWOOD SCOTT BUMGARNER

AUGUST 28, 1985

JAMES EVERETT BUMGARNER
v.
BARBARA ATWOOD SCOTT BUMGARNER



BEFORE PATTERSON, C.J., HAWKINS & ANDERSON, JJ.

PATTERSON, CHIEF JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

These cases, consolidated for appeal, arise from the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, where Barbara Atwood Scott Bumgarner (hereinafter Barbara) filed suit for divorce against her husband James Everett Bumgarner (hereinafter James). The record contains transcriptions of (1) the temporary hearing, (2) the hearing on the complaint for divorce, (3) the hearing on the motion to correct judgment and alternate relief (No. 54,863), and the hearings on (4) the motion to find defendant in contempt (54,931) and (5) the motion to find plaintiff in contempt (No. 55,152).

The court granted Barbara a divorce on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. James does not contest that action but assigns several errors in the trial in chief and in the hearing on the motion to find plaintiff in contempt. It is regrettable that a case so heavily litigated should be silent on a number of important facts. Specifically, there is very little evidence as to the propriety of the court's assessment of $2,000.00 attorneys fees against James. In McKee v. McKee, 418 So. 2d 764 (Miss. 1982), we set out guidelines for the determination of an appropriate amount of attorneys fees. We stated:

 [A] sum sufficient to secure one competent attorney is the criterion by which we are directed. Rees v. Rees, 188 Miss. 256, 194 So. 750 (1940). The fee depends on consideration of, in addition to the relative financial ability of the parties, the skill and standing of the attorney employed, the nature of the case and novelty and difficulty of the questions at issue, as well as the degree of responsibility involved in the management of the cause, the time and labor required, the usual and customary charge in the community, and the

 preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to the acceptance of the case . . .

 We are also of the opinion the allowance of attorneys fees should be only in such amount as will compensate for the services rendered. It must be fair and just to all concerned after it has been determined that the legal work being compensated was reasonably required and necessary.

 418 So. 2d at 767.

 By contrast, the only apparent basis for the award of $2,000.00 attorneys fees in this case was the following testimony taken during direct examination of Barbara:

 Q. Have you been awarded any attorneys fees in this litigation up to now?

 A. No, I have not.

 Q. You have given your deposition, have you not?

 A. Yes, I have.

 Q. I believe we spent two or three days preparing a bill of ...


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