Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Family Law Procedure
Florida family courts are courts of equity. This means the court has discretion with regard to certain aspects of a case to “balance the scales”. One such aspect is attorneys’ fees and costs. In a Florida family law case, attorneys’ fees can be awarded to a party based on a need and ability to pay analysis.
When one party has greater income and resources to pay attorneys’ fees, the court can even the playing field by requiring that party to pay the lesser-earning spouse’s attorneys’ fees and costs. This is to avoid a situation in which the higher-earning party has the ability to obtain a lawyer, leaving the lesser-earning party in a position in which he or she is unable to adequately defend against the lawyer and opposing party. However, the fact that one party earns more income than the other party does not automatically entitle the lesser-earning party to the payment of fees and costs.
In the case Miron v. Richardson, 1D18-1221 (Fla. 1st DCA July 16, 2019), the former husband appealed the trial court’s decision to make him responsible for his former wife’s attorneys’ fees and costs. This decision was based on the trial court’s sole finding that the former husband’s financial condition was “superior” to that of the former wife’s. In reversing this ruling, the appellate court held “While the court ‘may also consider any other factor necessary to provide justice and ensure equity,’ the primary consideration of the trial court in deciding whether to award attorney's fees and costs under section 61.16 is ‘the relative financial resources of the parties.’ In ‘considering the financial resources of both parties,’ as required by section 61.16, ‘it is not enough to simply show that the adverse party's ability to pay the fees is greater than the party seeking relief or that an award is based on the relative financial strain of paying attorney's fees.’” (internal citations omitted).
Whether you are seeking fees or defending against them, you should consider hiring a Florida family law attorney to help you. Start with a consultation with a Miami family law attorney to understand how to move forward in your case.