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Appeals Court Hears Case Regarding Attorney’s Fees During Florida Divorce


In Florida, the court can order one party to pay the legal fees of the other in specific situations. The court must determine that the party paying the legal fees engaged in egregious or meritless litigation conduct. The court can assign legal fees to this party as a means of discouraging such behavior. These are known as Rosen fees. They are generally reserved for situations involving the most egregious litigation misconduct. In a recent Florida court case, Alarcon v. Dagen, the court discusses the award of Rosen fees in a Florida divorce case.

Background of the case 

In this case, a mother and father engaged in a contentious paternity dispute. After paternity was established, the mother sought to establish a timesharing agreement, child custody, and child support. During the trial, the judge decided that parents should share equal timesharing rights and shared parental responsibility (joint custody). However, the judge refused to enter a judgment after the parents couldn’t agree. So, a second trial was conducted. After this trial, the father was awarded the majority of the timesharing and sole custody rights over the child.

After the decision, the father petitioned the court to be awarded legal fees under Rosen alleging that the mother’s conduct lacked merit and was not in the best interests of the child. The court granted the father’s petition, finding that the mother had not complied with a therapy schedule and made unsubstantiated accusations about the child’s safety. The court thus ordered the mother to pay $25,000 in legal fees. She appealed.

The appeal 

The bar for collecting legal fees based on egregious litigation conduct is very high. In this case, the appeals court overturned the trial court’s decision. The appeals court noted that the trial court did not determine whether or not the mother could afford to pay fees. Nor did it establish the father’s need for such fees. Further, the court clarified that Rosen only offers criteria for adjusting a fee award, it does not serve as the basis for a fee award.

The appeals court ruled that it is a misconception that Rosen is a means to penalize “meritless” litigation. The court ruled that fee awards must take into account the payer’s ability to pay and the payee’s financial fees to have their legal costs covered. In addition, the court argued that the application of Rosen to assign legal fees to one party must be done in only the most egregious of circumstances and not employed in routine custody cases.

Talk to a Tampa, FL Family Law Attorney Today 

The Tampa, FL family law attorneys at Westchase Law, P.A. represent the interests of divorcing couples. If you are pursuing a divorce in the Tampa area, give the experienced civil litigators at our office a call early in the process. We can help guide you through all the important aspects of your divorce settlement. Call today to learn more.

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