Upon pursuing a divorce, it is common to wonder if your ex-spouse can reimburse you for your attorney fees and other significant costs incurred throughout the process. Luckily, an answer can be found in statutes and case law.
Is it possible to get an award for attorney’s fees from my ex?
While it is possible for your ex to pay your attorney fees, it is unlikely. All courts follow the “American Rule” regarding legal fees, which requires that each party pay for their own representation. It is in limited circumstances that judges will order one party to pay the other’s attorney fees.
According to Section 61.16 of the Florida Statutes, a court may at times order a party to pay a “reasonable amount” for attorney fees. The court decides this after considering the financial resources of both parties, such as if one party is in a greatly superior financial position than the other. However, the noncompliant party in the proceeding cannot ask for attorney fees, suit money, or costs.
The petitioning spouse must prove their need for the award of attorney fees. This is done by presenting evidence to the court that because of a financial need, they are unable to pay the attorney fees. This evidence includes:
- Current Income
- Your net worth
- Past earnings
- Value of Assets
Judges also order a party to pay the other side’s fees when they filed a harassing or frivolous motion. It is understood that innocent party should not have to shoulder the expenses of such a case.
Can you sue for legal fees in family court?
After determining if the attorney fees incurred are necessary and reasonable, Florida courts use the “lodestar approach” to calculate the fees the spouse should pay: The reasonable hourly rate multiplied by a reasonable number of hours an experienced attorney would spend on the case.
Termed the “lodestar” method in a case called Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Rowe, the approach has been widely adopted by Florida courts. The final amount of fees is determined after the judge has taken into account all circumstances relevant to the case.