Attorneys' fees and costs

AuthorAnnette J. Szorosy/Stephanie Matalon
ProfessionGeneral Magistrate/General Magistrate
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
Attorneys’ fees, court costs, and suit money in a dissolution of marriage action may be contractual or statutory.
The purpose of awarding fees in a dissolution proceeding is to ensure that both parties have equal access
to representation. Court costs and suit money are def‌ined more liberally than in civil actions generally. The
primary factors in a temporary or permanent award are the need of the receiving spouse for contribution to
fees and costs and the present ability of the paying spouse to contribute. It is more important to volunteer fees
and costs, not only to ensure that both parties have equal access to representation, but to expedite f‌inancial
disclosure and compliance with mandatory disclosure, so the parties will be able to attempt mediation early,
without court involvement in the legal dissolution of marriage process. Fees and costs involve two separate
issues: entitlement and amount. The experienced family lawyer knows when to concede entitlement, knows
how to structure voluntarily providing amounts to complete the mandatory steps to settlement and f‌inal hear-
ing, and go before the court on contested matters, as a last resort. Specif‌ic f‌indings, evidentiary requirements,
hearing time constraints, and case law evolution in the area of fees and costs are additional concerns for
the family lawyer. This chapter is intended to assist the family lawyer with the practical aspects of the issues
surrounding fees and costs.
A. Basic Points
§17:01 Collect All Fees and Costs
§17:02 Cooperation With Opposing Counsel
§17:03 Fees Must Be Reasonable
§17:04 Cost-Benef‌it Analysis
§17:05 When and How to Seek Relief
§17:06 Expedite Mandatory Disclosure
§17:07 Structure Voluntary Offers of Fees and Costs
§17:08 Court-Appointed Experts
§17:09 [Reserved]
§17:10 Beware of Lawyer Shopping
§17:11 Preserve Marital Estate
§17:12 [Reserved]
§17:13 Application of Foreign Law and Enforcement of A
Judgment or Order of a Court of a Foreign Country
§17:14 Attorneys’ Fee Proceedings Pending Appeal
§17:15 Disgorge Unearned Fees Held in Trust
Florida Family Law and Practice 17-2
B. Ethics and Attorneys ’ Fees
§17:20 Factors Determining Reasonable Fee
§17:21 Limited Appearance
§17:22 Retainer Agreement in Writing
§17:23 Excessive Fees
§17:24 Contingent Fee
§17:25 Nonrefundable Retainer
§17:26 Unit Billing
§17:27 Paralegal and Secretarial Services
§17:28 Interest
§17:29 Fee Arbitration
§17:30 Retaining Lien and Charging Lien
A. Procedure
§17:40 Jurisdiction
§17:41 Standing: Assessed Against “Party”
§17:42 Entitlement and Amount Distinguished
§17:43 [Reserved]
§17:44 Statutory Basis—Attorneys’ Fees, Suit Money, and Costs at Trial Level
§17:45 Fees and Costs on Appeal
§17:46 Paid to and Enforced Directly by Lawyer
§17:47 Enforcement
§17:48 Title IV-D Cases
§17:49 Income Deduction Order
§17:50 Pleading Attorneys’ Fees, Costs, and Suit Money
§17:51 Notice
§17:52 Financial Aff‌idavits; Attorneys’ Fees and Costs Aff‌idavit
§17:53 Burden of Proof
§17:54 Discretion of Court
§17:55 Evidence to Be Presented
§17:56 Discovery of Lawyer Fee Records
§17:57 Appellate Review
B. Substantive Law
1. In General
§17:70 Need and Ability to Pay; Liquidity
§17:71 Competent Substantial Evidence
§17:72 Contributions by Others to Pay Fees and Costs
§17:73 Effect of Prenuptial or Marital Settlement Agreement
§17:74 Paid Out of Assets, Pension, or Future Earnings
§17:75 Fees for Companion or Ancillary Cases
§17:76 Action Terminates Before Entry of Final Judgment
§17:77 Imputation of Income
§17:78 Sanction Fees
§17:79 Duplicative Fees
§17:80 Prejudgment Interest
§17:81 Arrearages in Temporary Fees and Costs
§17:82 Suit Money and Costs
§17:83 Security for Fee Award
§17:84 Evidence of Offers of Settlement
2. Cases Favoring Payees
§17:90 Payor With Greater Assets and Income
§17:91 Non-marital Assets to Be Considered
§17:92 Borrowed Funds Not Considered
17-3 Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
§17:93 Support Issues Impact
§17:94 Court May Not Use Child Support Guidelines Percentage
§17:95 Payee Need Not Invade Assets
§17:96 Payor’s Retirement Funds to Be Considered
3. Cases Favoring Payors
§17:110 Both Parties in Need of Award of Fees
§17:111 No Need
§17:112 No Present Ability
§17:113 Payee Ability to Pay Own Fees
§17:114 Irregular Loans Not to Be Considered
§17:115 Payee Voluntarily Underemployed and Supported by Others
§17:116 Consider Totality of Awards
§17:117 Awards Leave Parties Relatively Equal
§17:118 Consider Non-marital Assets
§17:119 False Claims
C. Practice
1. In General
§17:130 Representing Payor
§17:131 Self-Represented Respondent
§17:132 Fee Hearing After Final Hearing
§17:133 Motion for Fees Not Required
§17:134 Order Awarding Fees and Costs; Findings
§17:135 Substantially Unequal Incomes; Partial Award
§17:136 Parties’ Conduct
§17:137 Reopen Case; Remand for Further Evidence
2. Payment Issues
§17:150 Income Ceiling
§17:151 Deferred Payment
§17:152 Use Marital Assets
§17:153 Enforcement by Contempt; Money Judgment
§17:154 Fees to Collect Fees
§17:155 Withdrawal of Lawyer; Charging Lien
§17:156 Dischargeability in Bankruptcy
D. Specif‌ic Fee Statutory Provisions and Issues
§17:170 Annulment
§17:171 Contesting Personal Jurisdiction
§17:172 UCCJEA—Award to Prevailing Party
§17:173 UIFSA—Award to Prevailing Party
§17:174 Enforcement of Domestic Violence Injunction
§17:175 Discovery Issues
§17:176 Child Issues
§17:177 Collection
§17:178 Marital Settlement Agreement—Award to Prevailing Party
E. Special Concerns in Presentation at Fee Hearing
§17:190 In General
§17:191 Expert Testimony
§17:192 Preparation of Client
§17:193 Mandatory Disclosure: Precondition
§17:194 Opening Statements
§17:195 Financial Aff‌idavits and Fee Aff‌idavit
§17:196 Testimony
§17:197 Closing Statement
§17:198 Findings

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