Dorothea C. Fleming, Wife, Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
James L. Fleming, Husband, and Tropic Traditions, Inc., Appellees/Cross-Appellants.
final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Alachua County. James P.
N. Bogdanoff, Christopher V. Carlyle, and Earle W. Peterson,
Jr., of The Carlyle Appellate Law Firm, Orlando, for
Cynthia Stump Swanson of Swanson Law Center, P.A.,
Gainesville for Appellee/Cross-Appellant James L. Fleming.
former wife appeals, and the former husband cross-appeals,
various orders and judgments entered by the trial court
resulting from the dissolution of their twenty-nine-year
marriage. The former wife raises six arguments on appeal, one
of which we agree with in part. [*] For the reasons that follow, we
reverse the Supplemental Final Judgment for Dissolution of
Marriage ("dissolution judgment") in part and
remand for further proceedings.
former wife claims that the trial court abused its discretion
in awarding her only $200, 000 of her requested $360, 837
attorney's fee. See Kurtanovic v. Kurtanovic,
248 So.3d 247, 253 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) (noting that the
standard of review for an attorney's fee award is abuse
of discretion). In awarding this amount, the trial court
accepted the former husband's fee expert's testimony
that the former wife's case could have been handled for
no more than $200, 000 and that there was a great deal of
duplication in the services her attorneys performed on her
behalf. However, the expert did not testify as to what
specific hours spent by the former wife's attorneys
should have been deducted for being duplicative or excessive.
See Centex-Rooney Constr. Co. v. Martin Cty, 725
So.2d 1255, 1259 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999) (holding that although a
fee applicant has the burden of establishing its entitlement
to an attorney's fee award, the opponent of the fee has
the burden of pointing out with specificity what hours should
be deducted). As we have explained, an attorney's fee
award under section 61.16, Florida Statutes, must include
specific findings of fact to support and explain the award.
Dorsey v. Dorsey, 266 So.3d 1282, 1289 (Fla. 1st DCA
2019). The absence of such findings requires reversal of the
fee award and a remand for specific findings of fact to
support the fee award. Id. Thus, we reverse the
dissolution judgment as to the attorney's fee award and
remand for the trial court to reconsider the issue in light
of the record evidence before it. See Southpointe
Homeowners Ass'n v. Segarra, 763 So.2d 1186, 1187
(Fla. 4th DCA 2000) (noting that trial judges are not bound
by unrebutted expert testimony in the context of awarding
attorney's fees and can, based on their own familiarity
with the type of litigation involved, determine that some of
the work was unnecessary); see also Puleo v. Morris,
98 So.3d 248, 250 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012) ("A trial court may
reduce attorney's fees that it determines to be excessive
if it makes the requisite findings to support that
to the former husband's cross-appeal, we agree that the
trial court failed to make the necessary findings when
requiring the former husband to maintain a life insurance
policy for the former wife's benefit. See Kotlarz v.
Kotlarz, 21 So.3d 892, 893 (Fla 1st DCA 2009)
(explaining that in order to support a life insurance
requirement, a trial court must "make specific
evidentiary findings as to the availability and cost of
insurance, the obligor's ability to pay, and the special
circumstances that warrant such security" and noting
that such circumstances include a spouse potentially being
left in dire financial straits after the death of the obligor
spouse due to age, ill health, and/or lack of employment
skills, an obligor spouse in poor health, minors living at
home, the supported spouse having limited earning capacity,
or the obligor spouse being in arrears on support
obligations); see also Gotro v. Gotro, 218 So.3d
494, 498 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017) (reversing the order on appeal
as to the life insurance requirement where the trial court
failed to make any specific evidentiary findings as to the
former husband's ability to pay and the special
circumstances that warranted such security); Therriault
v. Therriault, 102 So.3d 711, 713 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012)
(reversing the order on appeal as to the life insurance
requirement where the trial court failed to include the
required findings and remanding for further consideration).
As such, we reverse the dissolution judgment as to the life
insurance requirement and remand for the trial court to
reconsider this issue. We find no merit in the other issues
raised on cross-appeal.
conclusion, we reverse as to the award of attorney's fees
and the life insurance requirement and remand for further
proceedings. We otherwise affirm.
in part, Reversed in part, and Remanded for further
Rowe, and M.K. Thomas, JJ., concur.
reject without further comment the former wife's
arguments that the trial court erred in its valuation of the
parties' nursery business and in classifying what she
claims is a corporate liability as a marital liability, that
her alimony award was inadequate, that the trial court erred
in including in the equitable distribution and distributing
to her a portion of the proceeds expended during the
litigation from the sale of the jointly owned 26th Place
residence, and that the trial court erred in its valuation of