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Attorney’s Fees For Your Divorce

The judge may award attorney’s fees when one spouse needs them and the other spouse can pay them. You are expected to use existing funds to finance your litigation. Don’t expect an award of attorney’s fees when community property is available, such as savings accounts. The court usually considers requests that attorney’s fees be paid by your spouse, or out of community property, at the end of the case.

The fundamentally fair concept that the “playing field should be level” in divorce litigation and that both spouses are entitled to a relatively equal opportunity to litigate important issues in an appropriate manner has gained considerable following. If you don’t have access to any funds and your spouse does, the court should order your spouse to pay a reasonable amount in advance so you can protect your interests and prepare for trial.

You may find yourself in the common position of having complex issues and a meager litigation budget. Look carefully at what is at risk and the cost of pursing your rights. Borrow money if needed and you don’t fit neatly into one of the first two categories.

Ask for attorney’s fees and costs whenever your spouse’s refusal to consider your attempt to settle an issue forces you to go to court. Don’t ever expect to get a free ride by having all your expenses paid. However, if you’ve tried to work things out and your spouse is playing hardball with you, the court may award you a substantial portion of your fees and costs. The court will see this as fair to you and encouragement to your spouse to try a little harder to avoid taking up the court’s time.

The more forcefully you can convince the court that the issue should have been resolved out of court, the greater the chance you will recover all your fees and costs. You’re not required to show need when requesting fees for unreasonable conduct. You can’t lose by raising the request now, because you’re also laying the foundation for an eventual, larger award. If your spouse continues to be unreasonable, you continue to set the stage for larger and larger awards.

Note that attorney’s fees paid for obtaining a spousal support order, or for collecting support, are tax deductible. Ask your attorney to allocate charges to this tax-deductible item on each statement if this is not already being done.

Your spouse no longer has veto power over you! Helen, Fran and June couldn’t believe it after years of being dominated. No, they didn’t turn into unleashed monsters as a result. Each simply got what they were entitled to: a reasonable spousal support order over the exasperated objections of their respective spouse. Don’t forget that the longer you struggle by on an insufficient amount, the greater the chance that your spouse will be able to convince the court that’s all you need.

You have assisted your attorney with the preparation of your temporary support request. Previously, you developed the household budget and other financial information outlined in Chapter Seven. Now, you also have to help prepare a short, sworn statement telling the court about the special facts of your case. You’ll have to review this declaration, together with your income and expense information, to verify the accuracy before you sign them under oath and file them with the court.

Whoops! You’re not finished. Your spouse files opposition papers, trying to convince the court you’re all wet or that you’re asking for too much. These papers will not be available until less than a week before the hearing. Review them carefully as soon as you get them. Your attorney must prepare to rebut your spouse’s factual arguments, either by filing a rebuttal with the court or bringing out "the true facts" at the hearing itself.