Recently at Alba & Straile, PLLC, in divorce cases or post-divorce cases, we have been successful in getting the other party to pay attorney’s fees. This is because parties under the jurisdiction of the Court fail to do what they are told.
Normally, attorney’s fees in family law litigation are based on one side’s need and the other side’s ability to pay for fees. We show these “need” and “ability” factors through financial information including differences in income, assets, and liabilities. When one side can show a “need” and the other is shown to have the “ability,” a Court can then order reasonable fees paid by the party in the superior financial position. The general idea is to equalize the parties and their ability to get adequate representation.
However, this is not the only way a party can force the other party to pay attorney’s fees. Another basis to award fees can be found as a sanction for not obeying an order of the Court. Frequently in family law, litigation parties have discovery obligations to produce financial documents. This may include earnings, bank records, and other items that the family law requires the parties to produce. Additionally, attorneys for the parties can use other discovery methods such as sending interrogatories (written questions), requests for production of relevant documents beyond those in mandatory disclosures. and requests for admissions of fact.
The additional steps of seeking information through the discovery process obligates the other party to respond. When the party does not respond, one party can file a motion and ask a Court to enter an order compelling the other party to respond. This is the Court’s way of saying, “you were supposed to follow the rules, now I am telling you, you have to follow the rules.”
Even after these two bites at the apple, some parties just do not get it. They still fail to do what the judge told them to do. The next step is contempt and sanctions. Sanctions can include having the party pay some or all of the attorney’s fees in a case. An important part of this process is having an attorney willing to engage in discovery and take the initial steps to make sure a party is following the rules.
At Alba & Straile, our firm manages cases focused on the result with an eye on engaging in discovery and being proactive in handling our clients’ cases. If you are looking for an attorney who will take the steps to evaluate whether you can get the other party to pay your attorney’s fees or be proactive in handling your case, contact Alba & Straile today for a consultation. Please call, text, or click to fill out the form online.
See: Mercer v. Raine, 443 So. 2d 944, 946 (Fla. 1983); see Godwin v. Godwin, 273 So. 3d 16, 18 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019).