Can I Request Attorney’s Fees in My Divorce?
One of the main factors that hinder an individual from obtaining a divorce is the fear of the cost that such a litigation will involve. However, it is important to note that you may request and be awarded attorney’s fees in your divorce case. If you are concerned about your ability to afford the litigation and your attorney, discuss the option of payment of attorney’s fees by your spouse with your Orlando Divorce Attorney.
The primary purpose of providing this type of award is to balance the financial needs of the party and to provide each spouse with equal opportunity to obtain adequate legal representation. The legislature attempts to acknowledge the disparity of incomes, that is common between spouses, and is likely to hinder the lower earning spouse during a divorce. Therefore, to provide an equal advantage statute provides for payment of fees by the higher earning spouse.
Attorneys’ fees can be awarded in many family law cases, such as alimony, child custody, child support, contempt, enforcement or modification proceedings. However, Florida Statutes 61.13 and 61.17 specifically provide the regulations for an award of attorney’s fees in divorce cases. In order to be considered for an award of attorney’s fees, you must request this relief in your initial petition if you are the Petitioner, or your counter petition or answer if you are the Respondent. Without pleading this form of relief, the court will be unable to make such an award as it will essentially be waived.
After proper pleading of such relief, the court will have to determine if an award of attorney’s fees is appropriate and if the fees requested are reasonable. When determining if an award is appropriate, the court will look to the need and ability to pay, the financial resources of the parties, the length and history of the divorce, and any misconduct by either party. To determine if there is a need, you may present evidence of your inferior financial status, or inability to obtain counsel without taking money from marital assets or money that is needed for living expenses. The court will also look to the financial status of the other spouse to determine if they have the ability to support this need. They may consider the spouse’s employment, salary, and nonmarital assets that place them in a superior position to not only support their own attorney needs, but also their spouse’s.
Outside of financial status, the court may also consider the details of the divorce proceedings. The length of the proceeding meaning, from the date of employment of the attorney to the conclusion of the case, is a significant because the longer the proceedings the higher the costs will be. Further, if a spouse extended the proceedings through frivolous claims, failure to abide by timeline restrictions, or unwillingness to cooperate the court will take this into account to deliver an award of attorney’s fees out of fairness.
If a court finds that an award of attorney’s fees is appropriate, they will then determine if the amount of fees requested is reasonable. Reasonable fees are those that take into account the amount of work specific issues require, the amount of hearings that took place, if settlement occurred, the attorney’s experience and notoriety, and the common fees in the area. If the fees requested by the attorney are reasonable, the court will award the total amount, however, if found to be unreasonable but still appropriate the court may award the portion of the fees that they deem to be reasonable.
If you are fearful of the costs of divorce and affording your attorney, there are options available to you. Discuss with your Orlando Divorce Attorney the option of requesting relief of attorney’s fees from your spouse.
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