All About Attorney Fees
How to get your spouse to pay them
Even when you think you should qualify for help paying your attorney fees and you follow the Florida statutes’ guidelines, which allow for payment of reasonable attorney’s fees from one party to the other party, there is no guarantee that the court will agree. It is interesting to note, however, that in Florida the courts are concerned that each party be represented by legal counsel and one party who is much better able to pay attorney fees than the other party should not be able to take advantage of the other party by hiring an attorney of far greater experience or reputation than the other attorney. Also, a judge looks unkindly on an attorney who uses more hours or files more motions than are truly needed to properly handle the case. This is where the courts will look to award you attorney fees from the other party on a temporary or permanent basis. If you think you are financially in need of help with reasonable attorney fees there are a number of considerations to be aware of.
To begin with, the type of cases where payment of attorney fees by the other party can be considered include disillusionment of marriage (divorce), child support, parental timesharing (custody), arrears, modifications, and separate maintenance. If there has been non-payment of child support, disallowing a parent the adjudicated timesharing with their child, or domestic violence charges, you cannot request payment of your attorney fees.
Additionally, if your case qualifies, you must qualify as well. You must show, with substantial proof that your financial situation is such that you cannot afford adequate counsel, as this would be a burden on income needed for basic support expenses. Not only will what money you have, readily available for use, be taken into account, but what non marital assets such as real estate, high end electronics, a boat, valuable jewelry, or collectibles you have which could be sold to use for fees will be considered.
Once you and your attorney (it is imperative to have experienced legal counsel to help you) have determined that indeed you should qualify for having the other party pay attorney fees there are steps that will be taken. Here, the most important step will be including your request for attorney fees with the initial filing of your petition for disillusionment or other request. Or, if you are the recipient of the filing, the request for attorney fees must accompany your response to the petition. Unless, as a case continues on for a long time and there are way more expenses than originally planned for making it impossible for you to then pay all the fees, it is highly unlikely a judge will consider a later request for help with your attorney fees from the other party.
Depending on the payment arrangement made with a party’s attorney, it is sometimes necessary to request temporary fees to be used during the process of litigation, especially if the case is taking a long time to be resolved. Again, as with permanent fees, both a need and the ability to pay must be present. If either party cannot pay, in other words does not have sufficient personal assets to use for payment, then neither party can receive help with their fees. A thorough financial disclosure will be required of both parties. Too, if the attorney hired is charging a fee far above what the area’s other attorneys are charging, is charging more than his/her experience qualifies, or is charging for more hours than should be necessary to handle the case, it is not likely a judge will award attorney fees.
So it can be easily seen that if you think your spouse should pay your attorney fees you need to hire a family law attorney who is experienced in helping clients understand and follow Florida State guidelines for obtaining these fees. And, before you hire an attorney you should check several attorneys in your area for years of experience, fee schedule, method and time of fee payment, and references from past clients. If you live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, or Hillsborough counties you will find Attorney Grant Gisondo an excellent choice on all counts. His office is in West Palm Beach and he will be glad to meet with you in person during a free, in-office, initial consultation to answer your questions and share with you how he can help you in the process of obtaining attorney fees from your spouse, or other party when not married. Call (561) 530-4568 to make an appointment.