Attorneys Fees in Florida Divorce Cases

ATTORNEYS FEES IN FLORIDA DIVORCE CASES Over the past year, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has sent the message that the days of wealthy spouses being required to foot the tab for unrealistic divorce court litigation are over in South Florida.  The court’s recent mandates make clear that an impecunious spouse entitlement to Attorneys Fees in Florida Divorce Cases under § 61.16 can be limited or even eliminated when reasonable settlements are rejected and unnecessary or unrealistic litigation ensues. The South Florida Daily Business Review recently featured an article by Nugent Zborowski & Bruce partner Christopher R. Bruce explaining the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recent trend in attorneys fees in Florida divorce cases.  The court’s latest decisions indicate in trend towards refusing to require wealthy spouses to pay for their less affluent spouse’s divorce lawyer to litigate after the rejection of a reasonable settlement offer.  Mr. Bruce’s article can be viewed by clicking Christopher R. Bruce’s Florida Divorce Attorney Fee Article.  should work as a tool for knocking down the “leverage effect” that payment of attorney’s fees hold in matrimonial settlement negotiations.  Previously it was not unusual for impecunious but nefarious spouses to take seemingly extortionist positions in settlement discussions.  In effect, their negotiation stance was: “settle for my demands or experience the pain of paying both your lawyer and mine to go further”.  Many rational spouses would avoid “the pain” of paying two experienced matrimonial lawyers to litigate by increasing what was already a reasonable offer. Time may pass before the matrimonial bar wakes up to aknowledge the Fourth DCA’s reasoning.  In the meantime, it is advisable in most circumstances to begin...

Florida Appeals Court Addresses Judicial Discretion in Temporary Relief Orders

The Palm Beach County Bar Association published an article written by Nugent Zborowski & Bruce partner Christopher R. Bruce in the February 2013 edition of the in  Bar Bulletin.  The article addresses the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recent decision in the case of Hoff v. Hoff.  Click Christopher R. Bruce’s Temporary Relief Article to view the article. Hoff has the potential to be a significant decision in the area of temporary attorney’s fees.  Divorce lawyers may be able to rely on Hoff to argue a spouse is not entitled to temporary attorney’s fees regardless of comparative ability to pay when the spouse (1) has enough assets in their possession to pay their outstanding legal fees and (2) the amount of fees requested for future litigation is unreasonable.  That said, practitioners should be cautioned that a family law judge has extremely broad discretion when it comes to temporary fee awards and a different result may well survive interlocutory appellate scrutiny under similar facts.   Additionally, Hoff reiterates longstanding jurisprudence that temporary timesharing orders will survive appellate review as long as there is not an abuse of discretion.  A failure to make factual findings concerning the best interest of a child in a temporary order does not, in and of itself, constitute reversible error.  ...

No Attorney’s Fees for Unreasonable Palm Beach Divorce Litigant

Nugent Zborowski & Bruce partner Christopher R. Bruce‘s article on attorney’s fees was recently published in the Bulletin, which is the monthly publication of the Palm Beach County Bar Association. Christopher Bruce’s article is available by clicking Christopher Bruce’s article explaining attorney’s fees in Florida family law cases. The article addresses the recent opinion by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in the case of Hallac v. Hallac, So. 3d 253 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012).  In Hallac, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed an order limiting a wife’s request for attorney’s fees under Florida Statute § 61.16 due to her rejection of what the court deemed to be a reasonable settlement offer. Although the long-term impact of Hallac is remains to be seen, it appears the days of the wealthy spouse being required to foot the tab for unrealistic divorce court litigation is over in the Fourth District.  Family law practitioners, litigants, mediators, and counselors should take note of Hallac, as the case makes it clear that an impecunious spouse’s entitlement to attorney’s fees under §61.16 can be limited or even eliminated when a reasonable settlement is rejected....

Palm Beach Divorce Lawyers Vindicated on Appeal of Equitable Distribution Issue

PALM BEACH DIVORCE LAWYERS In 2009, the Palm Beach Divorce Lawyers of Nugent Zborowski & Bruce represented a husband during a four day trial on issues of alimony and equitable distribution.  One of issues in the case involved whether a cottage in Nova Scotia was a non-marital asset under a prenuptial agreement, or if the cottage was a marital asset subject to equitable distribution.  On February 22, 2012, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal reveresed the trial court and accepted the position taken at trial regarding the non-marital status of the cottage. Previously, the Former Husband and Former Wife entered into a post-marital agreement. The agreement provided that “any assets obtained by either of the parties through inheritance or parental gift, investments acquired from the proceeds of such assets, and any value accruing as a result of the use or investment of such assets [defined as protected assets] would be retained as each party’s separate assets.” However, under one exception to the agreement, protected assets “which are converted into tangible assets and used by the Former Husband and Former Wife would longer be protected. The Nova Scotia cottage was built by Former Husband’s family. Former Husband and his three siblings each inherited a 25% interest in the cottage. Thereafter, Former Husband withdrew approximately $61,000 from his non-marital trust to purchase his siblings’ respective interests. Throughout the marriage, title to the cottage remained in Former Husband’s name. The parties spent over $62,000 in marital funds to pay for the annual taxes, insurance and improvements to the cottage. The parties also enjoyed the use of the cottage during the marriage....

Judge Says “Pay Up” to Ex-Wife Who Was “Thirsty for Litigation”

The Palm Beach Divorce Lawyers of Nugent Zborowski & Bruce recently observed an interesting headline related to post-divorce litigation in New York.  The headline stated “Ex-Wife’s Thirst for Litigation Leads to Sanction” (click here for the article). In the New York case, the former wife was attempting to set aside a divorce settlement agreement giving her approximately 7 million dollars for various reasons.  The former wife’s efforts to set aside the divorce settlement involved filing multiple differant lawsuits, concluding with an 81 page lawsuit that named 23 different defendants! Instead of having her divorce judgment set aside, the New York judge on the case sanctioned the former wife for frivolous litigation, stating: “[Former Wife’s] unrelenting thirst for litigation despite this case having concluded over six years ago by the filing of a judgment of divorce, demonstrates her intention to use the courts as a continued means to harass the [Former Husband] and others…” . What is the moral of the story?  If you play games in court you will have to pay the price!  The above case was decided in New York, but Florida’s laws on attorney’s fees allow judges the discretion to punish litigants who initiate or prolong litigation by acting in bad faith. For more information on attorney’s fees in Florida divorce and family law cases click Florida Attorney’s Fees Guide , Florida Statute 61.16, or call 561.844.1200 to speak with the Palm Beach Divorce and Family Law Attorneys of Nugent Zborowski &...

Appeals Court Holds Annual Bonus Should be Considered in Determining Ability to Pay Attorney’s Fees

The Palm Beach and Boca Raton Divorce Attorneys of Nugent Zborowski & Bruce recently reviewed a ruling from Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal addressing whether a former husband should be required to pay his former wife’s attorney’s fees and costs. In DiNardo v. DiNardo, 37 Fla. Law Weekly D323a (Fla. 2D DCA Feb. 8, 2012), the trial court held that neither party was entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs from the other party as each party had equal assets. Generally, Florida Statute Section 61.16, the statute on attorney’s fees in family law cases, provides that attorney’s fees awards are primarily based on need and ability to pay the fees. In DiNardo, the appellate court reversed the trial court on account of the former husband’s annual bonuses not being considered part of his income for purposes or determining his ability to pay the former wife’s attorney’s fees and costs: “[T]he trial court did not take the Husband’s bonus income into account in determining the amount of his income. Instead, the trial court considered only the Husband’s base salary and his automobile allowance. The trial court based this treatment of the Husband’s income on its finding that his 2005 bonus — amounting to $110,000 — was deposited into a bank account that was to be divided equally between the parties. This finding is correct as far as it goes. The Wife does not dispute that the bonus for 2005 was deposited into the account in question. But the order under review treats the receipt of the $110,000 bonus for 2005 as if it were a singular event. In fact,...