Articles Tagged with orange park divorce lawyer

As a Jacksonville divorce attorney, I understand that attorney fees in divorce cases is an issue that comes up in every case. Whether each person will pay his or her own attorney fees, or whether the other side will be forced to contribute must be decided in every case. This can be done by agreement or a judge will decide.  Payment of attorney fees in divorces cases is primarily controlled by Florida Statute 61.16.   F.S. 61.16 in its simplest form bases attorney fees on one person’s need and the other person’s ability to pay. The court has the ability to assess fees on a temporary basis, at the end of the case, and even on to an appeal.

attorney feesThe purpose behind F.S. 61.16 in granting attorney fees in some situations, is to level the playing field. The courts would rather family law cases be resolved on the merits of the case rather than based on who has the most money to fight. There are circumstances where a court can order attorney fees based on other considerations that go past ability to pay. For example, the inequitable conduct doctrine can be used to punish an individual who as acted in bad faith throughout the case. Simply refusing to settle a case by itself cannot be considered egregious conduct or bad faith. In cases where one person purposefully frustrates the legal process throughout the case, or intentionally goes against a court’s prior ruling, the inequitable conduct doctrine can be used. Appellate courts have ruled that it should be reserved for the most egregious of cases.

Recently, in the case of Myrick v. Myrick, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals reversed a judge’s ruling that granted nearly a six-figure attorney fee award to the former husband. The former wife refused to settle the case and apparently gave the former husband a hard time in certain aspects of the case. The second DCA stated that her conduct was not enough to justify the award of attorney fees.

gross income, child supportMoney and finances in divorce and related cases are rarely, if ever, at the very top of a judge’s list of important issues, but child support calculations are important.   For the most part, calculating child support is a simple as running the numbers through a formula set out by Florida law. Where child support calculations can be tricky is when there is a dispute over what numbers are to be used in the child support calculation. In general, child support is determined by taking each side’s gross income (monthly), then subtracting certain allowable deductions to reach the net monthly income. The net monthly income is then used to calculate child support based on the number of children and other factors.


Gross Income

Clearly, getting each party’s income correct is an important first step. Chapter 61 says income is “any form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including, but not limited to: wages, salary, commissions and bonuses, compensation as an independent contractor, worker’s compensation, disability benefits, annuity and retirement benefits, pensions, dividends, interest, royalties, trusts, and any other payments, made by any person, private entity, federal or state government, or any unit of local government. United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits and reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation, as defined in chapter 443, are excluded from this definition of income except for purposes of establishing an amount of support.”

Recently, the Third District Court of Appeals, in the case of Schafstall v. Schafstall, affirmed a trial judge’s decision to include in kind payments as gross income. Specifically, the court included, as gross income for the Former Wife, $1300 that the Former Husband paid toward her mortgage and $250 her mother paid toward her phone bill each month.  The Former Wife argued that neither should have been included in the trial court’s calculation. However, the appellate court pointed out that F.S. 61.30 mandates that reimbursed expenses or in kind payments be included if they reduce living expenses. Any payments that come from any person will typically be included as gross income. In the Schaftall, case the appellate court pointed out that the evidence the trial court considered was enough to support the decisions that were made regarding income used to calculate child support. Continue reading

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