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Will My Spouse Pay My Attorney’s Fees and Costs In My Divorce Case?

By: Danielle Ostrovsky July 27, 2023 3:27 am

Time to read: 7 3 Minutes

Will My Spouse Pay My Attorney’s Fees and Costs In My Divorce Case?

Navigating the complexities of a divorce can be an overwhelming and emotional experience. It can also be a financial burden when it comes to paying for an attorney to represent you. It is no surprise that some divorces could very expensive, depending on how reasonable (or unreasonable) each of the parties are and the contested issues present in the divorce proceedings.

One of the most pressing concerns is the question of attorney’s fees – “Will my spouse pay my attorney’s fees and costs?

Did You Know?

In Florida, contingency fee arrangements are prohibited for dissolution of marriage cases. The Florida Bar holds this stance to ensure fair representation and prevent potential disadvantages to clients when it comes to legal proceedings related to divorce.

Florida statutes recognize that some individuals may not have the financial means to afford a family law attorney. For that reason, Florida statutes enable the court to assess one spouse’s reasonable attorney’s fees against the other spouse and certain other expenses after considering the financial resources of each party. The purpose in allowing the court to award reasonable attorney’s fees is to ensure both parties have equal access to competent legal counsel and to ensure that one spouse does not have an unfair advantage over the other spouse.

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Understanding Florida Statute § 61.16 – Attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs

The court may from time to time, 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 under [Chapter 61], including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals. 

Such an award may be made at the end of the proceedings, or even on a temporary or interim basis so that the less financially secure spouse can be ensured full access to representation throughout the divorce proceedings.

Need and Ability to Pay

Pursuant to Florida Statute §61.16, attorneys fees in a Dissolution of Marriage action are based upon need and ability to pay. That is one spouses need to have their attorneys fees paid for because they cannot afford to pay their attorneys fees and the other spouses ability to pay the attorneys fees for their spouse which is a result of them being in a superior financial position due to their income and/or assets.

A hearing will be held to evaluate need and ability, and evidence and testimony will be taken. If the court finds the requested fees and costs to be reasonable, it will order the other party to pay them.

Reasonableness

The Court may award only a “reasonable amount of attorney’s fees.” This reasonableness requirement applies to both attorney’s fees and costs associated with the divorce proceedings. In deciding whether fees and costs are reasonable, the Court must give the opposing spouse an opportunity to challenge the reasonableness of the attorney’s fees. This may may be done at anevidentiary hearing or trial where evidence is presented on whether the attorney’s fees and costs incurred were for a reasonable value.

In the end, the court may decide that the total amount requested is unreasonable, and may adjust the amount to what it considers to be reasonable.

Other Factors That Influence Attorney’s Fees in Divorce

There are other circumstances in which the Court can require one spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees. The factors the Court can consider are as follows:

  1. History of the divorce proceedings and litigation;
  2. Merits of each spouse’s position;
  3. Duration of the divorce proceedings and litigation; and
  4. Whether one party has engaged in vexatious litigation which is when one party’s legal position is intended to harass, frustrate or delay the other spouse.

The Court can also award attorney’s fees to one spouse as a sanction against the other spouse for contempt or enforcement.

Timing for Request for Payment of Attorney’s Fees

Proper timing is crucial when requesting attorney’s fees in a divorce filing. It is essential to request that your spouse pay for your attorney’s fees at the beginning of the proceeding. If you are the spouse that is filing for divorce, then you need to request attorney’s fees in your initial Petition. If your spouse filed for divorce first, then you need to request is in your Response to the Petition. You can also make a request for temporary attorneys fees during the divorce case by filing a Motion for Temporary Relief. Lastly, you can request attorneys fees as a sanction against your spouse if they are in contempt of a Court Order or if you need to enforce a Court Order requewting thenm to do something and they are not doing it during your divorce proceedings.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods

Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and collaborative divorce, can help spouses resolve issues related to attorney’s fees outside of court. These methods offer a more cooperative and less contentious approach to divorce, allowing couples to address their disputes and reach agreements without the need for extensive legal proceedings.

By opting for alternative dispute resolution methods, spouses may be able to save time, money, and stress compared to traditional court processes.

Mediation

Mediation involves a neutral third-party helping spouses negotiate and reach agreements on various divorce-related issues, including attorney’s fees. The mediator’s purpose is to facilitate communication between the parties, enabling them to identify and comprehend their interests and aiding them in attaining a mutual agreement.

Mediation offers several advantages over litigation in divorce cases.

  • It is typically more cost-effective
  • It is usually faster
  • It allows couples to retain control of the outcome of their divorce
  • It can help avoid contentious disputes over attorney’s fees.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a process whereby both parties resolve their disputes outside of court through negotiation and cooperation, avoiding a traditional divorce proceeding. In this approach, spouses work together with their attorneys to resolve disputes related to attorney’s fees.

Collaborative divorce can be more expeditious and cost-effective than a traditional litigated divorce in court, making it an attractive option for couples seeking to address attorney’s fees in a more amicable and efficient manner. By choosing a skilled divorce lawyer, the process can be even smoother.

Call Ostrovsky Law for a Confidential Consultation

Call Ostrovsky Law for a Confidential Consultation

Divorce is already a difficult and emotional process to go through. The last thing that you should have to worry about is how to afford protecting your rights and best interests in a divorce case.  If you are entitled to have your spouse pay for your attorneys fees, then Fort Lauderdale Divorce Attorney Danielle M. Ostrovsky, Esquire, we will provide you with excellent representation and zealously fight for you to get an award of attorney’s fees.

Don’t go through your family law concerns alone. Experience matters when it comes to legal issues surrounding divorce, and other family law matters. Danielle M. Ostrovsky, Esquire, is the family law attorney you need on your side. As the founding partner of Ostrovsky Law, she’s dedicated her career to assisting clients through complex marital and family law issues.

Operating throughout South Florida, Ostrovsky Law offers a refined approach to family law honed through years of specialized practice. Whether you’re dealing with divorce proceedings, determining spousal support, settling on parental responsibilities, or resolving timesharing, you deserve a dedicated legal professional to guide you.

If your circumstances involve paternity cases, equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, high net worth asset division, child support, modifications and contempt of support, or drafting prenuptial/postnuptial agreements, Danielle M. Ostrovsky, Esquire brings invaluable expertise and a compassionate approach to every case.

Act now to secure your rights and protect your future. Contact Ostrovsky Law in Fort Lauderdale today. With her extensive experience and commitment to her clients, she’s your strongest ally in family law matters. Don’t wait—seek the legal support you need today. Danielle is ready to fight for you, your family, and your future.

Call now at 954-641-2388 to schedule your confidential consultation.

Danielle is available for in-person, telephonic and Zoom consultations, including evening and weekend appoinments, to work around your schedule.

Divorce Litigation (Contested Divorce) FAQs

  • What is divorce litigation?

A divorce is “litigated” or “contested” when the spouses cannot agree on how to resolve the issues between them such as parental responsibility, timesharing, alimony, child support, division of assets and liabilities and attorney’s fees. In this situation, one of the spouses will file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Court to begin the process.

  • What is the process for a litigated (contested) divorce?

Divorce litigation involves navigating the legal system to resolve the contested issues between spouses in their divorce case such as the division of assets and liabilities, spousal support (alimony), parental responsibility and timesharing, child support and attorney’s fees. It typically includes filing various documents with the court, preparing for and attending hearings where evidence is presented and testimony is taken, attending depositions and mediations, requesting and exchanging various documents and evidence, and ultimately attending trial, if necessary.

  • How long does a litigated (contested) divorce typically take?

The duration of a divorce from start to finish can vary based on many factors such as the complexity of the case, how many issues are contested between the spouses, whether there are minor children of the parties, the Court’s availability to set hearings and trial in a timely manner, and whether the parties are willing to reach a settlement agreement on some or all the issues. At the very least, a litigated divorce in Florida will take several months to a year or longer.

Summary

  • Attorney’s fees in a divorce can be awarded to one spouse by the court if the other spouse can afford to pay them and the first spouse cannot afford to pay for their own attorney.
  • The court will consider the financial resources of both spouses, the need and ability to pay, and the reasonableness of the fees when making an award.
  • There are other factors that can influence the court’s decision, such as the history of the divorce proceedings and litigation, the merits of each spouse’s position, and the duration of the divorce proceedings and litigation.
  • Proper timing is crucial when requesting attorney’s fees in a divorce filing. It is essential to request that your spouse pay for your attorney’s fees at the beginning of the proceeding.
  • Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and collaborative divorce, can help spouses resolve issues related to attorney’s fees outside of court.
  • Divorce litigation is a complex process that can take several months to a year or more to complete. It is important to have an attorney who can navigate these legal issues and advocate on behalf of their best interests

Danielle Ostrovsky

Danielle Ostrovsky is the founding partner of Ostrovsky Law, a boutique law firm that practices exclusively in the area of marital and family law throughout Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.

With a sole focus on marital and family law, Danielle has refined her skills and gained extensive experience in divorce, spousal support, parental responsibility, timesharing, paternity, equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, high net worth asset division, child support, modifications and contempt of support, and prenuptial/postnuptial agreements.

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