Who Pays for a Divorce in Florida?
When a Tampa resident decides to file for divorce, one of the first questions or concerns that often arises is cost: how much will a divorce cost, and who will pay for the divorce? This issue frequently is of greatest concern for a spouse who earns significantly less than the other spouse. Given that divorce can be expensive, especially if a couple is going through a contested divorce in which neither can come to an agreement on major issues such as the division of marital property or child custody, the process can become even more stressful for a spouse who may be worried about affording attorney’s fees.
It is important to understand that the theory of equitable distribution that governs property division in Florida is not the only area of a divorce in which the court seeks to ensure that the process is equitable, or fair, to both of the parties. Indeed, under Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 61.16), the court may require one of the parties to pay the reasonable attorney’s fees for the other party. As such, if the divorce process goes on for an extended period of time, the lesser earning spouse may not have to be concerned about financially affording legal counsel for the entire time.
How the Florida Statutes Handle Attorney’s Fees in Divorce Cases
Section 61.16 of the Florida Statutes specifies the following:
“The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, 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 under this chapter, including enforcement modification proceedings and appeals.”
The statute goes on to explain that “an application for attorney’s fees, suit money, or costs, whether temporary or otherwise, shall not require corroborating expert testimony in order to support an award under this chapter.” In addition, “the trial court shall have continuing jurisdiction to make temporary attorney’s fees and costs awards reasonably necessary to prosecute or defend an appeal on the same basis and criteria as though the matter were pending before it at the trial level.”
In sum, if one of the parties needs the other party to pay attorney’s fees, the party in need must request reasonable attorney’s fees or other related costs. The request for fees can be temporary or ongoing. Then, the court has the ability to order the other party to pay temporary or ongoing attorney’s fees in that specific case, as well as to order the other party to pay attorney’s fees or other related costs if the other party appeals.
Why One Party Can Be Eligible for Attorney’s Fees
To be clear, attorney’s fees and other costs for a divorce are not granted or ordered in every case. The party seeking attorney’s fees must have financial need, and the court will only order attorney’s fees when taking into account both parties’ financial resources. Why would attorney’s fees be granted?
Imagine a scenario in which Party A earns significantly less money in a job than Party B. Or, perhaps, Party A was a stay-at-home parent during the marriage while Party B was the primary earner. In other to “win” in the divorce, Party B hires an experienced attorney that charges more in attorney’s fees, assuming that Party A will be forced to hire a less experienced lawyer who will take the case for a lower fee. Or, in order to “win” in the divorce, Party B will not agree to terms and attempts to drag out the divorce process in hopes that Party A will not be able to continue paying his or her lawyer.
The statute, which allows for reasonable attorney’s fees, is designed to prevent those scenarios and to ensure equitability in the divorce process.
Discuss Your Case with a Tampa Divorce Lawyer
If you have questions about divorce and costs, a Tampa divorce attorney can help. Contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. to speak with an advocate today.