When entering a divorce and considering the amount of money such litigation will cost, many are concerned with their ability to afford the legal process. These costs become even more concerning if your spouse is the breadwinner and you do not have a separate income to draw money from to compensate your attorney. If you are concerned about being able to afford your attorney’s fees and pay the resulting court costs, discuss with your Florida Divorce Attorney your eligibility of requesting payment for these costs from your spouse.
In Florida, most individuals are responsible for their own respective attorney’s fees. However, Florida statute does provide “The court may…after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding.” 61.16 Florida allows such action to ensure both parties are able to obtain proper and equitable representation. If you do have a concern regarding your ability to pay, but are not sure you will need your spouse to supplement your costs, it is still important to ask for such relief in your initial petition. If you fail to request such relief in the beginning of your case, you may waive your right to assert such a claim for attorney’s fees later on.
When asking for attorney’s fees, a party does not need to present expert testimony to validate such costs. However, evidence may be required of the billable hours of your attorney to corroborate certain fees. This is due to the idea of the costs being reasonable, as required under the statute. The court will take into account the reasonable rate for an attorney in your area, as well as the services provided, and what amount of work that was required in the case. If the court finds the costs reasonable, he may award full payment of the attorney’s fees, however, if found that some are unreasonable, he may only award a portion. An order to pay a party’s attorney fees may be done on a temporary basis, during the course of the trial or, at the conclusion of the case. The money a spouse is ordered to pay may be directly paid to your attorney, who may then enforce the order against the spouse, or have the money paid directly to you, to then pay your attorney.
It is within the court’s discretion to award a party’s attorney’s fees to be paid by the opposite party. However, if there is such a grave financial discrepancy between the parties’ incomes, it is common that equity will require an award of attorney’s fees. The court may note other factors outside of the financial aspects of the parties; however, this will still remain the element of highest priority. The court will likely look not only at the incomes of the parties, but the assets they have at their disposal as well. The court may also look at the case itself, and the claims presented by the parties, to determine if frivolous claims have been presented that have drawn out the case resulting in larger fees. If a single party has drawn out the case in certain ways, they may be held responsible for certain fees to equate justice between the parties.
Therefore, if you are concerned about being able to afford your divorce, discuss this with your Florida Divorce Attorney. We will be able to evaluate your situation and petition the court to award you attorney’s fees to alleviate this concern so that you may focus on the important details surrounding your family and divorce.
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