In McArdle v. McArdle, the Fourth DCA clarified what is required to put an opposing party on notice that attorneys’ fees are being sought. The husband moved to compel an inventory of the marital home under a provision of the marriage settlement agreement (MSA). The MSA also contained a provision requiring any party who defaults under the MSA to reimburse the non-defaulting party for expenses incurred to enforce the agreement. The wife refused to allow the inventory, and the husband moved to enforce the inventory provision. He also sought attorneys’ fees, but he did so under section 61.16 rather than pursuant to the MSA. The wife objected, arguing that the husband should have pled fees under the MSA and not 61.16. The magistrate took judicial notice of the MSA and recommended that the trial court award fees to the husband pursuant to the MSA because the wife was on notice that the husband was seeking fees (albeit under the statute rather than the MSA). The trial court disagreed with the report and recommendation, finding that the husband’s specific request for fees under 61.16 did not provide the wife with sufficient notice.
The Fourth DCA reversed. It explained that, under a Florida Supreme Court case called Caufield v. Cantele, the wife had sufficient notice that the husband was seeking fees to enforce the MSA. The Fourth DCA held: “The specific provision relied on for attorney’s fees is not required under the progeny of Stockman and Caufield. Thus, the failure to rely on the specific provision, in this case paragraph 8.12 of the marriage settlement agreement, is not fatal to the request for attorney’s fees. Further, citing to section 61.16, a provision for attorney’s fees in dissolution actions, within the context of a family law related case, would still provide the required notice that an opposing party was seeking attorney’s fees.”