What do I have to prove before the Court awards attorney’s fees?
Prior to awarding attorney’s fees, the court must be presented with sufficient evidence of the financial need of the petitioning party and the ability to pay of the other party. An award of attorney’s fees should not be denied if the party requesting fees is only able to afford an “inferior” counsel. The requesting party is entitled to receive the necessary amount of fees needed to access an attorney of similar ability as the other party’s counsel. In analyzing a party’s ability to pay, the court should consider net worth, past earnings, value of assets, and current income. The petitioning party must also prove the “necessity and reasonableness” of the attorney’s fees incurred. The court should follow the “lodestar” approach for an initial estimate of fees. This method multiplies a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours an experienced attorney would spend on the case. The court has the authority to deny or reduce attorney’s fees when the petitioning party’s counsel has spent an irrationally high number or hours. The court may also deny or reduce an attorney’s fee award if the receiving party’s counsel has presented a claim or defense he/she should know is “not supported by material facts… or by existing law” F.S. 57.105 (1) (a-b). Once the lodestar amount is determined, the court will determine the final amount by considering all circumstances relevant to the particular case including “the scope and history of the litigation; the duration of the litigation; the merits of the respective positions; whether the litigation is brought or maintained primarily to harass; and the existence and course of prior or pending litigation Rosen v. Rosen, 696So.2d 697 (Fla. 1997).