Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Parties who are left in similar financial standing after the distribution of assets and debts in their Florida divorce are usually ordered to pay their own respective attorneys’ fees and costs. This is illustrated in the recent appellate case Ingram v. Ingram, 2D18-3978 (Fla. 2d DCA July 10, 2019). The former husband’s behavior in the case also played a part in the ultimate decision of the court.

The parties were married for 38 years. After equitable distribution in their divorce, the parties were placed in similar financial positions with both parties having a need for attorneys’ fees but neither having an ability to pay. Despite this, the trial court ordered the former husband to pay a portion of the former wife’s attorneys’ fees and costs amounting to over $8,000.00. The former husband appealed.

The appellate court noted case law which indicates it is an abuse of discretion to award attorneys’ fees when the parties are left in similar financial positions. However, it noted, “The trial court did not make any specific findings regarding the former husband's behavior as it relates to fees, but the trial court's order does contain findings in other places regarding the former husband's behavior. To the extent that the trial court intended the fees to be a sanction for the former husband's litigation misconduct, the order should have contained ‘findings that support the reduction or enhancement factors set out in Rosen’ and should have "explain[ed] what portion of the fees incurred was 'occasioned by [the former] husband's misconduct.'“ Therefore, the case was remanded with the instruction that “If the trial court awarded fees based on the former husband's misconduct, the trial court shall make appropriate findings to that effect.”

The former husband could therefore still be ordered to pay the fees to the former wife if the trial court made appropriate findings regarding the former husband’s misconduct that warranted the fees. If you are facing a similar situation in your Florida divorce case, contact a Miami family law attorney for a consultation.