Will My Spouse Pay My Divorce Lawyer's Fees

During a contested divorce case the court can order one person to pay or contribute to the other person's legal fees. How that determination is made and the amount of money ordered can vary significantly. The general concept is that there should be somewhat of a level playing field so that one side is not out gunned because the other person cannot afford to hire an attorney. However, in real life the answer is not always so simple nor is the money to pay an attorney always provided fast enough.

If one person controls the finances and earns the majority of income, it may be difficult for the lower incomed spouse to hire or to continue to pay their existing attorney. Most divorce lawyers will require an initial retainer to start the representation. If the client cannot pay the retainer it will be much more difficult to have their spouse pay or contribute as it is like the chicken and the egg, you need the lawyer to help get you money.

If the case has already been started, then the lawyer can try and get money from the other side or will threaten to make an application to the judge. Often the court will order payment of interim (while the case is pending) payment of part of the attorney's fees when there is a significant difference between each side's income and/or assets. The courts prefer parties to have legal representation.

If one side has been violating orders, interfering with parenting rights, not paying child support, not paying bills directed by the court, the likelihood of a counsel fee award is increased significantly because it is one person's behavior causing the additional legal fees.

If one side has been delaying the case or needlessly creating conflict again the court may award legal fees. There are certain instances in which the court is suppose to award attorney's fees for example when there is a violation of a child or spousal support order. However, as with most things in life there are no guarantees that the court will do so.

Finally, the amount of the legal fees granted by the court is very irregular as the facts of each case, the income of the parties, the conduct of each party, the quality and expense of the legal work performed, the resources of each party to pay their own fees are all different in each case and so with all of these factors it is difficult for any attorney to predict what amount the court will grant.

Therefore, most attorneys will ask for as much as possible since more often than not the full amount is not awarded. However, whatever fees are granted are a big help.