LARRY B. INGRAM, Appellant,
LINDA S. INGRAM, Appellee.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Polk County; Ellen S. Masters,
Kathleen V. Logan and Teresa O. Prescott of Prescott Legal,
P.A., Tampa, for Appellant.
M. Henne of Jean M. Henne, P.A., Winter Haven, for Appellee.
B. Ingram, the former husband, appeals a final judgment
dissolving his thirty-eight-year marriage to Linda S. Ingram,
the former wife. We affirm the judgment of dissolution
without comment, but we reverse the fee award and remand for
former husband argues that the trial court erred in awarding
partial attorney's fees to the wife because she failed to
demonstrate a need for fees after the equitable distribution
placed her in a superior financial position.
court reviews "an award of attorney's fees, whether
in whole or in part, for abuse of discretion." Arena
v. Arena, 103 So.3d 1044, 1045 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013)
(citing Anciaux v. Anciaux, 666 So.2d 577, 578 (Fla.
2d DCA 1996)). "Decisions regarding an award of
attorney's fees in a dissolution case are governed by
section 61.16, Florida Statutes [(2017)], which requires the
trial court to consider 'the relative financial resources
of the parties' in evaluating whether a fee award is
appropriate.'" Arena, 103 So.3d at 1045-46.
"As a general rule, when 'marital property has been
equitably distributed and the parties' incomes have been
equalized through an alimony award, the trial court abuses
its discretion by awarding attorney's fees.'"
Hanson v. Hanson, 217 So.3d 1165, 1168 (Fla. 2d DCA
2017) (quoting Hutchinson v. Hutchinson, 185 So.3d
528, 529 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015)); see also Matajek v.
Skowronska, 927 So.2d 981, 988 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006)
("[A]n award of attorney's fees is inappropriate if
the parties are left in relatively equal financial
circumstances after the dissolution." (citing Brock
v. Brock, 690 So.2d 737, 742 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997))).
result of the trial court's equitable distribution and
alimony awards, the parties were placed in similar financial
positions, with both parties having a need but neither party
having an ability to pay. Yet, the trial court awarded the
former wife a partial award of attorney's fees in the
amount of $8901.26. It was an abuse of discretion to order
the former husband to pay the former wife's partial fees
when the judgment of dissolution placed the parties in
similar financial positions and there was no indication that
the former husband otherwise had the ability to pay.
possible that the trial court ordered the former husband to
pay the former wife's fees based on the former
husband's behavior during the divorce proceedings.
See Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So.2d 697, 700 (Fla. 1997)
(holding that in addition to the "financial resources of
the parties," "other relevant circumstances to be
considered include factors such as the scope and history of
the litigation; the duration of the litigation; the merits of
the respective positions; whether the litigation is brought
or maintained primarily to harass (or whether a defense is
raised mainly to frustrate or stall); and the existence and
course of prior or pending litigation"). The trial court
did not make any specific findings regarding the former
husband's behavior as it relates to fees, but the trial
court's order does contain findings in other places
regarding the former husband's behavior. To the extent
that the trial court intended the fees to be a sanction for
the former husband's litigation misconduct, the order
should have contained "findings that support the
reduction or enhancement factors set out in
Rosen" and should have "explain[ed] what
portion of the fees incurred was 'occasioned by [the
former] husband's misconduct.'" Perez v.
Perez, 100 So.3d 769, 773 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) (quoting
Gagnon v. Gagnon, 539 So.2d 1179, 1179 (Fla. 1st DCA
1989)); see Arena, 103 So.3d at 1047 (holding that
"if the trial court had intended to award [only a]
portion of the [w]ife's fees and costs as a sanction for
the [h]usband's litigation misconduct, the fee order
contains insufficient findings" where the fee order did
not contain any findings regarding the wife's behavior).
we reverse the attorney's fee award and remand for
further proceedings. If the trial court awarded fees based on
the former husband's misconduct, the trial court shall
make appropriate findings to that effect.
in part; reversed ...