Florida Statute Regarding the Recovery of Attorney Fees Following Divorce

There are a variety of situations in which one party may be entitled to recover their attorney fees following a Florida divorce. According to Florida statute, the court will consider the finances of both spouses prior to awarding attorney fees to one or the other. If a spouse asks the court to award attorney fees, and the court finds the request is without justification or that the person making the request has not followed court orders, the request may be denied. Should you decide to ask that your attorney fees be paid by your spouse, you are not, under Florida statute, required to provide corroborating expert testimony to support your request. In some instances, the court can award interim attorney fees to one party or the other to ensure both parties are competently represented during the divorce. When attorney fees are approved by the court, the amount approved will be paid directly to the attorney.

Keep in mind that attorney’s fees are, essentially, a first-party contract, meaning both you and your spouse are ultimately responsible for your own fees, however when circumstances warrant, your family court judge may award attorney fees to one party or the other. As an example, if your income is much lower than that of your spouse, you may be unable to secure the same level of legal representation, therefore could come out “on the short end,” during the divorce. A judge may agree that the playing field needs to be leveled, and could require your spouse to pay for your attorney. In some cases a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement could have a provision in place which awards attorney fees to one partner or the other—generally the lower-income spouse. If your pre or post-nuptial agreement specifically waived attorney fees, the Florida Supreme Court has the power to rule that such a provision is unenforceable. In short, your Florida court has broad discretion when determining whether an award of attorney’s fees is warranted.

If you believe you are entitled to recover the fees paid to your attorney during your divorce, an attorney from The Law Place can help. If you are the spouse with a lesser income or less control of your finances, we can be your advocate regarding fee shifting. Our attorneys will work hard to protect your rights and recover attorney fees on your behalf, ensuring you receive highly skilled legal representation during your Sarasota divorce.

§61.16 Attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs.

(1) 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 this chapter, including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals. In those cases in which an action is brought for enforcement and the court finds that the noncompliant party is without justification in the refusal to follow a court order, the court may not award attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs to the noncompliant party. An application for attorney’s fees, suit money, or costs, whether temporary or otherwise, shall not require corroborating expert testimony in order to support an award under this chapter. The trial court shall have continuing jurisdiction to make temporary attorney’s fees and costs awards reasonably necessary to prosecute or defend an appeal on the same basis and criteria as though the matter were pending before it at the trial level. In all cases, the court may order that the amount be paid directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in that attorney’s name. In determining whether to make attorney’s fees and costs awards at the appellate level, the court shall primarily consider the relative financial resources of the parties, unless an appellate party’s cause is deemed to be frivolous. In Title IV-D cases, attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs, including filing fees, recording fees, mediation costs, service of process fees, and other expenses incurred by the clerk of the circuit court, shall be assessed only against the nonprevailing obligor after the court makes a determination of the nonprevailing obligor’s ability to pay such costs and fees. The Department of Revenue shall not be considered a party for purposes of this section; however, fees may be assessed against the department pursuant to s. 57.105(1).
(2) In an action brought pursuant to Rule 3.840, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, whether denominated direct or indirect criminal contempt, the court shall have authority to:
(a) Appoint an attorney to prosecute said contempt.
(b) Assess attorney’s fees and costs against the contemptor after the court makes a determination of the contemptor’s ability to pay such costs and fees.
(c) Order that the amount be paid directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in his or her name.