Who pays for attorney fees and costs? When incomes are approximately equal, each party must pay for his or her divorce. But when one party has substantially more income, Florida statues provide that the court may require the richer party to pay all or part of the other spouse’s fees and costs. The purpose of the statute is to try to insure that the party with little or no income is not at a disadvantage in hiring a lawyer compared to the spouse with the higher income.
At the beginning of the proceedings, if there is a real financial need for fees and costs and the other party has the ability to pay, the court may enter a temporary order requiring the richer party to pay temporary fees and costs. Because attorneys are well aware of this rule, there is often a stipulation or agreement that some portion of the spendable assets of the marriage can be used for attorney fees and court costs.
At the end of the proceedings, the court will determine the relative economic status of the parties. It will look at the equitable distribution of assets and debts, any award of alimony and any award of child support. If there is still a substantial difference in the parties incomes, the party with the higher income may be required to pay or reimburse the other party for his or her attorney fees and court costs. The reason for this is that one party should not be required to liquidate or use his or her portion of the equitable distribution of assets to pay for fees when the other party is able to pay for his or her fees out of monthly income. As pointed out above, the party with little or no income should be not at a disadvantage in hiring a lawyer compared to the spouse with the higher income.
If at the end of the proceedings if a party has previously been awarded temporary attorney fees and costs but now has the same or better ability to bear the cost of fees and costs, the court may require that some portion of the temporary fees and costs be refunded to the paying spouse.
The point of all of this is that it is a mistake to think “I cannot afford an attorney even though my husband/wife has plenty of money to hire his or her attorney.” The law is written to make the playing field level when it comes to hiring a lawyer. If you need my help, go to my web site at www.peppler law.com or call my office for a consult.