Attorney Fees in Paternity Actions

Under Florida Statute 742 any woman who is pregnant or has a child, and any man who has reason to believe that he is the father of a child may bring a proceeding in a Circuit Court of Florida to determine the paternity of the child when paternity has not been established by law or otherwise.

When determining the issue of paternity the court can, when appropriate, order the father of the child to pay the mother money sufficient to pay reasonable attorney's fees and all costs of the proceeding.  Obtaining an award of fees in a paternity action can prove harder than just making the request.  Specifically, in order for the court to award fees under the paternity statute, the trial court must find that the father has the ability to pay those fees.

Florida case law further provides that, in order to award fees under the paternity statute, the trial court may consider secondary factors that are related to the length and scope of the litigation and the parties' behavior during litigation.  Often times the length, scope and the parties' behavior become important factors in a fee hearing as the stress and emotional toll of a paternity action leads the parties to act in a manner that hinders settlement and drives up the cost of litigation.

Because a party to a paternity action may not be aware of certain case law factors, it is best to consult with an expert Tampa paternity attorney who is familiar with the  Florida family law process and specifically one that has experience in  Florida paternity actions in order to address all issues related to a paternity action, including the ability to obtain an attorney's fee award.