In a Florida divorce proceeding, a party seeking attorney’s fees usually does so under Fla. Stat. § 61.16. The purpose of section 61.16 is ensure that both parties in a divorce have the ability to seek competent legal counsel. Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197 (Fla. 1980). There are several ways in which a spouse can challenge another spouse’s request for attorney’s fees. Two primary areas of contention are the requesting spouse’s need for attorney’s fees and the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Aside from these, however, there are other challenges the payor-spouse can raise in opposition to attorney’s fees.
In Rosen v. Rosen, the Florida Supreme Court addressed other circumstances courts may consider when awarding attorney’s fees in a divorce. See Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So. 2d 697, 699 (Fla. 1997). Rosen recognized that even in divorce proceedings, courts may employ a “lodestar method” for determining an appropriate amount for attorney’s fees. The purpose behind the lodestar is to determine an objective basis for attorney’s fees. Id. To do so, a court must multiply the number of hours reasonably incurred in litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. In a divorce, however, the lodestar calculation is not determinative of the ultimate fee award. Instead, it provides “an appropriate starting point for setting a reasonable attorney’s fee in domestic relations cases.” Id.
The lodestar calculation provides a party with a formula for challenging the reasonableness of a spouse’s request for attorney’s fees. If rates charged or hours billed are unreasonably high, a spouse can ask that the award be lowered based upon a lodestar analysis.
Aside from the reasonableness of the hours and fees, parties in a divorce proceed can also challenge attorney’s fees using other factors including the scope and history of the litigation, the duration of the litigation, the merits of the parties’ positions and whether litigation was brought or maintained by a party with the intention of harassing or annoying another party. Rosen, 696 So. 2d at 700. While the financial resources of the parties is the “primary factor to be considered,” courts can grant or deny attorney’s fees if it is evident that a spouse is pursuing frivolous litigation which lacks any factual or legal support.
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