Who pays for divorce?

Can I make my spouse pay for the divorce? It might be the most common question asked by our clients in a divorce. After all, every court document includes a request for the other side to pay attorney’s fees. In short, no, likely not. That is just not how it works.

Tradition vs. Common Sense

There are many oddities in law, and sometimes, tradition wins over common sense. All court documents will ask for attorney’s fees, even if they are not allowed or are uncommon in whatever type of case it is about.

In divorces, all of our pleadings and motions will include a request for attorney’s fees from the other side. The judge has the power to order one side to pay for attorney’s fees of the other side, but it doesn’t happen frequently. When it does happen, we have to wait until the very end of the case to find out what the judge will say.

How does the judge decide who pays for divorce?

The judge bases the decision to award attorney’s fees on the behavior of the parties. Did one side make frivolous demands or unfounded allegations? Was one side unreasonable, or act in a ridiculous manner, or not follow the judge’s orders (contempt)? If so, that party is likely to be punished by being ordered to pay attorney’s fees to the other side. What matters to the judge is your spouse’s behavior during the divorce proceedings, not what he/she did to cause the divorce.

Can my lawyer work on a contingency fee basis?

Divorce lawyers are not allowed to work on contingency, or base a fee on how much or many of the assets we can win for our client, to the detriment of the other side. Unlike in other types of legal cases, divorces are supposed to be equitable. Our job as divorce lawyers is to work toward a reasonable, equitable resolution. It is unethical for us to base our fee on how unfair a settlement we can get for our client.

The Bottom Line

All clients in divorces, or other domestic cases, will have to pay their attorney’s fees up front, and should not bank on the judge ordering reimbursement by the other side.

Sometimes the judge will make an exception. If the marriage is long, and we can show that the other party has control of the assets and won’t share—even on a temporary basis to help you survive during the divorce—then the court may enter a temporary order to correct the situation. Such an order might include direction on possession of the marital home, who pays the debts, and who can spend what money.

Sometimes the judge will order one side to contribute to the attorney’s fees of the other side, but this is rare. This is disappointing to hear for many of our clients, but by and large you are on your own to pay for your advice and counsel in divorces.

We Can Help

Our attorneys are experts, and are here for you with straight talk, predictable cost, and superior services. We promise to tell you what the most likely outcome is up front, and to be open and transparent in our communications with you until your case is resolved.

Our approach to practicing law is revolutionizing the way law firms deliver legal services. Case evaluations are completely free. Call Lion Legal today at (501) 227-7627 or Email Us to set up a free consultation.