April 16, 2014

Can My Spouse Be Ordered To Pay My Attorneys’ Fees?

Sometimes we hear that the “prevailing party” in a lawsuit is entitled to collect their attorneys’ fees from the other party.  This concept generally originates from the terms of the sued-upon contract in civil litigation.   But this begs the question – does this “prevailing party” concept apply in dissolution cases and can one spouse be obligated to contribute to the other party’s attorneys’ fees?  The “prevailing party” concept has limited application in dissolution proceedings, but it is common for one spouse to be required to contribute to the other party’s attorneys’ fees and costs. 

 Section 61.16, Florida Statutes (2012) provides that “a court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorneys’ fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending” a dissolution proceeding.  Courts can award temporary or interim attorneys’ fees (to provide one spouse with funds during the divorce) and/or final attorneys’ fees (usually at the end of the case).  The purpose of fee awards in dissolution cases is to ensure that both spouses have similar access to legal counsel and can participate in the case nearly equally. 

 An award of attorneys’ fees in an action for dissolution of marriage requires a determination of one spouse’s financial need and the other spouse’s ability to pay.  Although Florida courts have slightly different interpretations, a fee award is generally appropriate when the requesting spouse cannot afford competent counsel without depleting their portion of the marital assets or using other funds that are necessary for daily living expenses.  The analysis is generally more detailed if a final award of attorneys’ fees is requested. 

Florida law also provides that the courts may consider any factor necessary to do justice and equity when determining an attorney fee award.  Thus, parties should be aware that non-compliance with court orders or bringing unnecessary litigation may limit an attorneys’ fees and costs award in their favor and could result in fees being awarded against them. 

 Additionally, a spouse may be ordered to pay the other spouse’s attorneys’ fees when the ordered spouse caused unnecessary or “vexatious” litigation.  For example, if one spouse unjustifiably refuses to produce documents about their finances, and it requires the other spouse to file motions with the court to require that party to produce these documents and attend hearings regarding the same, the non-producing spouse may be required to pay the costs associated with this unnecessary litigation.  They could also be awarded if the Court orders a party to do something and they fail to do so even though they had the ability.

 Ultimately, whether one spouse should be ordered to contribute to the other spouse’s attorneys’ fees and costs depends very heavily on the specific facts and circumstances of each case, and should be discussed in detail with an attorney.  With that in mind know, fees can be at risk.

© Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, PA, 2014. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Allison Perez Ramirez, Family, Marital Attorney, Lowndes, law firm

Allison is an associate in the Family and Marital Law practice, devoted to family law matters including dissolution of marriage, child support, child custody,...


About the Author

Rebecca Palmer, Family, Marital Attorney, Lowndes, law firm

Rebecca Palmer leads the Family & Marital Law practice. She has a broad background in providing alternative dispute resolution, general litigation, and collaborative law issues for domestic disputes for nineteen years. Rebecca's matters range from pre-marital agreements, divorce, and adoptions to difficult dissolutions, complex financial issues and custody cases. A Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, she is experienced in all methods of case resolution, including mediation, arbitration, facilitation and negotiations to serve individuals as well as businesses.



Boost: AJAX core statistics

Legal Disclaimer

You are responsible for reading, understanding and agreeing to the National Law Review's (NLR’s) and the National Law Forum LLC's  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy before using the National Law Review website. The National Law Review is a free to use, no-log in database of legal and business articles. The content and links on are intended for general information purposes only. Any legal analysis, legislative updates or other content and links should not be construed as legal or professional advice or a substitute for such advice. No attorney-client or confidential relationship is formed by the transmission of information between you and the National Law Review website or any of the law firms, attorneys or other professionals or organizations who include content on the National Law Review website. If you require legal or professional advice, kindly contact an attorney or other suitable professional advisor.  

Some states have laws and ethical rules regarding solicitation and advertisement practices by attorneys and/or other professionals. The National Law Review is not a law firm nor is  intended to be  a referral service for attorneys and/or other professionals. The NLR does not wish, nor does it intend, to solicit the business of anyone or to refer anyone to an attorney or other professional.  NLR does not answer legal questions nor will we refer you to an attorney or other professional if you request such information from us. 

Under certain state laws the following statements may be required on this website and we have included them in order to be in full compliance with these rules. The choice of a lawyer or other professional is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Attorney Advertising Notice: Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Statement in compliance with Texas Rules of Professional Conduct. Unless otherwise noted, attorneys are not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, nor can NLR attest to the accuracy of any notation of Legal Specialization or other Professional Credentials.

The National Law Review - National Law Forum LLC 4700 Gilbert Ave. Suite 47 #230 Western Springs, IL 60558  Telephone  (708) 357-3317 If you would ike to contact us via email please click here.