Last week, we had to fight for attorney’s fees and forensic accounting fees for our client. In our client’s divorce case, the Husband solely controls a major business. In fact, the Husband’s business generates millions of dollars each year. The Husband, not our client, has already paid his divorce attorney and forensic accountant the combined sum of about $140,000. For reasons only known to the Husband, the Husband did not want to contribute similar sums for the Wife’s divorce attorneys (Schantz and Schantz) and forensic accountant.
The divorce laws in the State of Florida require both spouses to be on even footing regarding attorney’s fees and forensic accounting fees. If this were not the case, a stay at home wife/mother may not be able to afford a divorce attorney at all, while the Husband can go out and retain the best attorney in town. In Florida, if the higher earning spouse is unwilling to pay for the lesser earning spouse’s attorney’s fees the divorce judge or magistrate can take testimony from the parties concerning their need for attorney’s fees and the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Once the ability to pay has been established the lower earning spouse still must establish whether or not the requested attorney’s fees are reasonable. For example, ordinarily, a divorce dealing with a short term marriage, no children, in which both spouses worked would not normally justify a large attorney fees award. Conversely, a long term marriage, with a great deal of assets, a spouse who never worked, and minor children could justify a large attorney’s fee award from the court. Of course, every divorce case is different and each case will rest upon specific facts of that case.
In Florida, your rights as it relates to divorce attorney’s fees will turn upon many factors before the Court. Getting legal advice from an experienced divorce attorney will help you determine if you are or are not entitled to attorney’s fees and forensic accounting fees. If the Judge determines that the higher earning spouse can afford attorney’s fees the Judge can order payment for all or a portion of the lower earning spouses attorney’s fees. In fact, there is a huge amount of divorce case law dealing with the rights to attorneys fees. Many cases have come from the appellate courts dealing with attorney’s fees. The fight for or against attorney’s fees in a divorce appears to be a never ending battle.
People always ask us about divorce attorney’s fees even though the incomes of both spouses are substantially similar. In the case where spouses have similar incomes the usual outcome is for each spouse to pay their own attorney’s fees and forensic accounting fees. That said, the divorce judge can order attorney’s fees if can be proven that one spouse has engaged in vexatious litigation. Vexatious is the legal word for harassment. Meaning, one spouse is litigating in large part just to harass the other. Although often times hard to prove, there are cases in which the court has ordered fees for vexatious litigation.
Happily, for our client, after hearing nearly 2 hours of testimony from the Husband, the Court stopped the hearing and told the Husband, his divorce lawyer and forensic accountant that they may want to go out of the courtroom and “talk”. Based upon this “talk” our client is now entitled a payment for attorney’s fees and forensic accounting fees which will allow her to protect her legal rights.
At Schantz and Schantz we are here to protect you and your families rights. If you have any divorce or family law questions we can help. Feel free to call the divorce and family law attorneys at Schantz and Schantz 954-385-1536.