SHARON P. ROSALER, Appellant,
BRIAN L. ROSALER, Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Timothy L. Bailey, Judge; L.T. Case No.
A. Hass of Nancy A. Hass, P.A., Hollywood, for appellant.
Cynthia L. Greene of Law Offices Greene Smith &
Associates, P.A., Coral Gables, for appellee.
Rosaler ("Former Wife") raises four issues in this
appeal of a dissolution of marriage final judgment, all of
which we affirm. We write solely to address Former Wife's
second issue, and hold that a trial court does not abuse its
discretion in considering the parties' litigation conduct
to limit an award of attorney's fees under section 61.16,
Florida Statutes, even where the party that benefits from the
ruling occupies the superior financial position.
January 2014, the parties had been married eight and a half
years; Former Wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage and
ex parte injunctive relief. She alleged that she was
compelled to leave the marital residence with the
parties' three minor children for their safety, but would
return if Former Husband was enjoined from residing at the
thereafter, Former Wife sought an injunction for protection
against domestic violence against Former Husband, alleging,
among other things, that he was sexually abusing the
Former Wife's abuse allegations were not limited to court
documents. She told their son's school principal that she
believed Former Husband sexually abused the children. Former
Wife also told the children's pediatrician that Former
Husband sexually abused the two minor daughters. She told the
pediatrician that she did not think Former Husband was
sexually abusing the son, but believed the son "sniffled
as much as he did" because Former Husband was giving him
Wife's allegations were false. She admitted at the final
hearing that filing for an injunction for protection on
behalf of the children was "a mistake." Her false
allegations about sexual misconduct raised the heat of the
litigation beyond the boiling point.
2014, Former Wife moved for appointment of a guardian ad
litem. She argued that such appointment was in the best
interests of the children to address timesharing issues and
Former Husband was in a better position to pay for those
services. This motion came after the parties had already
agreed to shared parental responsibility and equal
timesharing in a stipulated temporary relief order.
final hearing in January 2015, Former Wife sought
attorney's fees based on her need and Former
Husband's ability to pay. She sought $528, 433 in
attorney's fees, $77, 399 in costs, and $303, 423.50 in
forensic accountant fees, for a total of $909, 255.50. Former
Wife also requested that Former Husband be ordered to pay the
remaining guardian ad litem fees. Former Husband had paid
$21, 445 to the guardian ad litem, while Former Wife had paid
Wife's attorney billed almost 1, 000 hours from April
2014through the final hearing in
January 2015. According to Former Husband's fee expert,
the hours billed by Former Wife's attorney were
"astronomical" and represented an excessive amount
of "handholding." Based on his experience, the case
was not a particularly difficult one; he believed it would
have been reasonable to spend between 200 and 250 hours on
on the financial circumstances of the parties, the trial
court found that Former Wife had the need for attorney's
fees and Former Husband had the ability to pay. However, the
court noted that it could also consider "the history of
the litigation, " and found that "just about the
entirety of the Wife's fees were the result of her
misconduct." As evidence of Former Wife's
misconduct, the trial court cited Former Wife's false
abuse allegations and her request for appointment of a
guardian ad litem after the parties had already largely
agreed on parental responsibility and timesharing. The ...