Fla. Stat. sec. 61.16 allows a judge to award attorney’s fees to a party. After considering the financial resources of both parties, the court may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding, including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals.
When an enforcement action is filed, and the court determines that a non-compliant party is not justified in the refusal to follow a court order, the court may not award attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs to the non-compliant party.
It is important to note that the testimony of an expert is not required in a request for attorney’s fees. In addition, the court continues to have the ability to award temporary attorney’s fees and costs reasonably necessary to prosecute or defend an appeal throughout the case.
The court may order payment directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in that attorney’s name. In determining whether to make attorney’s fees and costs awards at the appellate level, the court utilizes the same criteria as the trial court.
The court considers the relative financial resources of the parties unless an appellate party’s cause is deemed to be frivolous.
The statute does not set forth detailed factors or methods of determining if and when the attorney will be awarded. The judge will attempt to level the playing field when asked to award temporary suit fees or award attorneys fees at the conclusion of the case.
As a general practice, the court will consider the following factors in deciding whether to award attorney’s fees to a spouse:
- The complexity and number of issues in the case.
- The length of the marriage.
- How the parties are getting along.
- The relative incomes or assets of each party in the marriage.
Where the spouses earn the same or similar incomes and are financially similarly situated, no award of attorney’s fees will be made in most cases.
However, suppose the court finds that a party is engaging in unnecessary or vexatious litigation. In that case, that party will be barred from receiving attorney’s fees and may be ordered to pay attorney’s fees.
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