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At the law office of Elaine M. Simon, Marital and Family Law Attorneys, we help those in need of attorney’s fees. Just as a court can award attorney’s fees and costs after a divorce proceeding, a court may enter temporary orders concerning attorney’s fees. This would allow one party to have their legal expenses paid for by the other party during the pendency of the hearing. In determining whether such temporary awards are appropriate, the court considers both the need of the party requesting the temporary fees as well as the other party’s ability to pay. Like the process for final awards, temporary awards are made after a hearing concerning the financial situation of both parties– including income and assets – of each party. Both a need and an ability pay must be found.
Where a spouse may not have the financial means available to afford a family law attorney, Florida caselaw, Rosen, allows courts to require one spouse to pay the other spouse’s attorney’s fees and costs. The court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to a spouse to that there is not an unfair advantage between the parties. The court will look at several factors to gauge whether attorney’s fees will be paid by the other spouse, including:
- Financial resources of the parties: This is probably the most significant consideration when determining if attorney’s fees should be awarded. The court examines the financial resources of both the party requesting fees and the resources of the party against whom the fees are sought. This is more than a simple look at the income of the parties.
- Scope, history and duration of the proceedings: The court may find an award of attorney’s fees appropriate where one party began a proceeding that was limited in nature (such as establishing a child support amount), but now the proceeding develops into a complex and highly litigious case. In such a case, a party who may have initially been able to afford competent legal counsel now may not be able to afford the lengthy litigation. A court may find that the party frivolously extending the duration of the court proceedings pay the other party’s attorney’s fees.
- Merits of the parties’ positions. If it appears to the court that one party is acting in such a way as to harass the other party or to stall the proceedings, the court may take this into consideration. The party being harassed or the party that is not stalling will necessarily incur legal fees in defending him or herself. The court may find that fairness and justice support an award of reasonable attorney’s fees paid to the innocent party, both as a means of reimbursing a party for needless litigation and as a means of deterring a party from bringing meritless proceedings.
- An actual need for the award. A minority of Florida courts may award attorney’s fees if they find there is a relative need. That is, where one party is in an inferior financial position compared to the other spouse. The majority of courts, however, look for the party requesting the fees to have a demonstrable and actual need for the fees.
The predominate factor is whether the party required to pay for attorney’s fees has the ability to pay and the party receiving the attorney’s fees has the need for the attorney’s fees to be paid.
To schedule a confidential consultation with the Palm Beach County attorney, call Elaine M. Simon, Marital and Family Law Attorneys at (561) 472-0087.