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Can I enforce a court order that my spouse pay my attorney's fees in Florida?

Posted by attorney Dustin Butler

Florida Statute § 61.16 provides for attorney’s fees to be paid by a more financially-able party in Dissolution of Marriage cases: “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 and modification proceedings and appeals."

This is not to say that the other spouse always has to pay attorney’s fees in divorce cases, but, rather, both parties are entitled to be on “equal footing" within the family law courts. When there is need by one spouse and an ability to pay by the other spouse, the court may order attorney’s fees to be paid.

Unfortunately, the order to pay often occurs later in the case, after you have already paid some or all of you attorney’s fees. Once this occurs, the money paid directly to the attorney is refunded to the client. Therefore, you may have a strong interest in your spouse actually paying the ordered amount.

The attorney who is entitled to receive the monies may bring a motion to enforce the order of attorney’s fees and costs, there was some question as to whether the spouse may enforce the order. The Second District Court of Appeals answered this question in a recent case: a husband brought a Motion to Enforce the Court’s order to pay attorney’s fees and costs to the court. The trial court found that he did not have standing to bring the motion.

The Second District Court of Appeal reversed that decision and found that the order to pay attorney’s fees on behalf of of the husband was an award to the husband, and therefore he had standing to bring a Motion to Enforce.

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