Can My Spouse Be Required to Pay My Attorney Fees?
Many considerations go into the decision to get divorced, including how a person will pay for the process. The repercussions of divorce are numerous, but finances are an area that is especially impacted by the dissolution of the marriage. Along with the court fees and costs of filing the paperwork and having time in front of the judge, there are also fees for a divorce attorney. A person is free to choose self-representation, but this road presents many risks and consequences that cannot be undone. Going it alone is especially problematic if the other side has an attorney or generally has a much greater ability to pay legal fees over the long-term. This dynamic could put the other spouse at a great disadvantage because the spouse with more means can afford to litigate issues longer and perhaps pressure the other spouse into an unfavorable settlement just to save money. Depending upon the circumstances, it is possible to ask the court to order the other spouse to pay one’s attorney fees, but this request is up to the judge and will not always be granted. As an example, the husband of talk show host Wendy Williams, Kevin Hunter, is asking for attorney fees, among other financial support, in response to her divorce filing last month.
How Court’s Assess Requests for Attorney Fees
In most instances, each spouse is responsible for paying for legal fees out of his/her own resources. However, the law does allow a spouse with fewer means to afford an attorney to ask the court to have the other spouse assume some or all of this burden. Whether the court will grant the request will depend upon a few factors, including:
- The amount of the fees and the financial resources of each spouse. The more disparate the income is between spouses, and the higher the legal fees due to protracted litigation, the more likely the court will grant the request.
- If each spouse acted in good faith throughout the divorce proceeding. If the actions of one spouse led to the need to hire an attorney or prolong the case, the judge could ask the other spouse to assume some of the financial burden of the associated legal fees generated. Unreasonable requests for documents, filing numerous and unnecessary motions, and refusing to negotiate or mediate issues could all go to show a lack of good faith.
When in the Case a Request Should Be Made
In Pennsylvania, requests for attorney fees are typically made near the end of the case so that the amount a spouse would have to pay is generally known and the behavior of the parties can be assessed. If fees will not be reviewed until the end, the spouse requesting the order will have to pay in hopes of receiving reimbursement later. Another option is to ask for an interim award, which is available if the couple has a liquid asset a spouse can pull from to pay legal fees while the case is ongoing. This is considered an advance, and the final decision on attorney fees are made at the end of the case, which means the money used to pay legal fees could come out of that spouse’s share of the estate if the fee award is small. Consulting with a divorce attorney about the feasibility of recovering attorney fees is the best approach if this issue is a concern.
Seek Legal Advice
There many short- and long- term costs of divorce that must be evaluated, including legal fees. If you feel that your spouse should be responsible for this aspect of your divorce, talk to the experienced Media divorce attorneys at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates about how to proceed. Money is always a big concern during a divorce, and our attorneys can help you understand what your options are to obtain some financial security. Contact us today for a consultation.