Divorce Attorney Fees

Who pays for divorce attorney fees in Florida?

The court possesses the authority to consider all “relevant” factors when determining whether to order an award of attorney’s fees. The most important factor to consider is the relative financial position of each party. If one party is clearly in a vastly superior financial position, this is usually grounds for an award of attorney fees on its own. However, income alone is not grounds for an award of attorney’s fees. The petitioning spouse must prove need for an award of attorney’s fees. The court must examine how alimony, child support, and/or equitable distribution has affected the financial position of each party. If the petitioning spouse has a much lower income than the other but has been awarded ample financial resources from the divorce proceedings, the court may deny his/her request for attorney fees. The court must consider non-marital assets when determining an award of attorney fees.

There are several factors outside the realm of financial circumstances that the court should consider as well. The court must determine that the reported attorney fees are “reasonable and necessary” before granting an award. The court will also examine the duration of the litigation and how each party has handled his/herself throughout its course. If it seems as though one party is instigating unnecessary litigation meant to harass the other party, the court may take this into consideration while determining an award of attorney fees.

What are the basic requirements to obtain attorney fees?

The basic requirements that must be met to seek or obtain attorney’s fees are:

  1. The parties must be in a marital relationship;
  2. The court must have jurisdiction over the party which is ordered to pay the attorney’s fee award
  3. The party requesting attorney’s fees must do so prior to the final judgment; and
  4. The demonstrated financial need of one party and the demonstrated financial ability of the other to pay attorney’s fees.

How do I request recovery of my attorney fees?

A request for attorney’s fees should be made in the original petition or a responsive pleading. A financial affidavit must be filed by the party requesting the fees. The request for fees should base entitlement on allegations in the pleadings. Attorney’s fees may also be awarded through consent. If a party is made aware that the opposing party has requested attorney’s fees and does not reject the claim, or otherwise acknowledges the claim as legitimate, that party forfeits his/her ability to deny attorney’s fees. Often, in Palm Beach County divorce cases, the parties will negotiate and agree upon both temporary and final attorney’s fee awards when one spouse is in a superior financial position as compared to the other spouse. Prior to any enforcement proceeding, the party must again request fees through a pleading or he/she may be denied the award. The trial court may maintain a party’s claim for fees after the final judgment by reserving jurisdiction.

How does the court determine whether attorney fees should be awarded?

The court possesses the authority to consider all “relevant” factors when determining whether to order an award of attorney’s fees. The most important factor to consider is the relative financial position of each party. If one party is clearly in a vastly superior financial position, this is usually grounds for an award of attorney fees on its own. However, income alone is not grounds for an award of attorney’s fees. The petitioning spouse must prove need for an award of attorney’s fees.

The court must examine how alimony, child support, and/or equitable distribution has affected the financial position of each party. If the petitioning spouse has a much lower income than the other but has been awarded ample financial resources from the divorce proceedings, the court may deny his/her request for attorney fees. The court must consider non-marital assets when determining an award of attorney fees.

There are several factors outside the realm of financial circumstances that the court should consider as well. The court must determine that the reported attorney fees are “reasonable and necessary” before granting an award. The court will also examine the duration of the litigation and how each party has handled his/herself throughout its course. If it seems as though one party is instigating unnecessary litigation meant to harass the other party, the court may take this into consideration while determining an award of attorney fees.

 You must provide sufficient evidence to prove your request

You must present sufficient evidence to the court that because of a financial need, you are unable to pay attorney fees. The court will analyze the following to determine your ability to pay:

  • Current Income
  • Your net worth
  • Past earnings
  • Value of Assets

You must also prove that the attorney fees that you have incurred are necessary and reasonable. Also the court cannot deny your request if you prove that you can only afford a “inferior” divorce attorney.

In Florida, the courts follows the “lodestar approach” to come up with the initial estimate of fees you should incur.   This method multiplies a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours an experienced attorney would spend on the case.

So, if the judge determines that your attorney has spent an irrationally high number of hours, the court can reduce or deny your attorney fee award.

Also if it is determined that your attorney has presented a claim or defense that he or she should know is “not supported by material facts, the court may also deny or reduce an attorney’s fee award.

Once the lodestar amount is determined, the court will determine the final amount by considering all circumstances relevant to your particular case.

More Attorney Fees Questions

Below are more commonly asked questions that our divorce attorneys receive about whether or not one can recover (or be required to pay) attorney’s fees and costs in a Florida Divorce. Clicking the question will provide you with a detailed answer.

Attorney’s fees in Florida Divorce – What if my spouse dies?

Can I get awarded attorney’s fees for spouse misconduct?

Can my attorney take my case on a contingency basis?

How does a marital settlement agreement impact an award of attorney’s fees?

How do I obtain a divorce lawyer if I have no money?

Can I obtain attorney’s fees in modification of divorce?

Can I obtain attorney’s fees in my contempt or enforcement action?

What happens if my spouse fails to pay my attorney’s fees?

What is suit money in a Florida divorce?

Will my spouse be required to pay any suit money?

What are considered divorce costs in Florida?