Our CFL Credential teaches you about all facets of financial matters in divorce cases. In the process, you also learn why it’s not who you know, but what you know that wins more clients.
Among the topics covered in the course is alimony. When it comes to temporary relief, courts sometimes handle it differently than permanent alimony. Florida divorce cases may take a year or more to reach a final hearing or trial. Because of the wait, Sunshine State family law allows temporary relief for alimony, child support, or time-sharing. The recent appeals court case of Jooste vs. Jooste tackled the issue of whether to grant child support and legal fees as part of a temporary relief award.
The trial court granted Debra Jooste temporary alimony and denied her request for temporary attorney’s fees, suit money, and professional fees. The temporary relief order granted Michael Jooste unsupervised timesharing with their minor children.
Despite those decisions, the court also found that Debra needed to receive temporary child support and that Michael had the means to pay for it, but it made no separate or express provision for child support.
Debra appealed, arguing the court failed to make an express child support award after finding she had a need. She also asserted that the court failed to consider all factors required when awarding temporary attorney’s fees and costs.
State of Florida 4th District Court of Appeal Ruling
In the appeal, Michael partially conceded the trial court erred in its decision, but he argued that the court intended the alimony awarded in the temporary relief order to include child support. He also said that the court needed to identify the amount of the temporary relief award that would cover alimony and child support and that the court failed to consider the Joostes’ incomes in its relief order.
Based on Michael’s “proper confession of error,” the appeals court reversed the temporary relief order and the decision related to child support.
Regarding the award of temporary attorney’s fees and costs, “To ensure that both parties have the ability to obtain competent legal counsel, a court is permitted to award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. ‘[T]he appropriate inquiry and standard to be applied is the same whether the fees requested are temporary or final.’ That inquiry “is whether one spouse has a need for suit money and the other has the ability to pay” and also requires the court to ‘determine the reasonableness of any attorney’s fees and costs prior to ordering a party to pay them.’ The Florida Supreme Court provided other factors to consider…”
According to the appeals court, the trial court didn’t make findings on the complexity of the case, Debra’s need for temporary fees, Michael’s ability to pay them, or the reasonableness of the fees sought.
“Instead, it compared the amount the Wife paid for professional services to the amount the Husband paid. Because the Wife paid twice the amount as the Husband, the court denied her temporary fees. The court, therefore, erred when it considered no factors other than the amount paid by each party. As a result, we reverse the order denying the Wife temporary fees, suit money, and professional fees.”
The appeals court also remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Discover how to handle these and other financial aspects of divorce in our CFL course. Find out why it’s not who you know, it’s what you know that builds a successful family law practice in our free information packet today.