Is he responsible for my legal fees since he filed for the divorce?
Considering how much a divorce lawyer can cost, especially if it’s a long, complex trial, a common concern is who pays for the lawyers.
It’s most common for each spouse to pay for their own divorce lawyer. Even if your ex is the one who filed for divorce, that doesn’t shift the responsibility of paying your lawyer onto them. There are, however, select situations where the court could require your ex to pay a portion or the entirety of your lawyer’s fees.
Information on situations when your spouse may need to pay your lawyer’s fees is available below. Keep in mind that laws vary depending on your state.
Balancing Out a Financial Disparity
If you have access to your own money, you will typically bear the burden of paying for your divorce lawyer. On the other hand, if you don’t work or have your own savings, then there’s a strong possibility that the court will require your ex to pay for your lawyer. This often happens in situations where one spouse was a stay-at-home parent.
Just because you have your own income or savings, that doesn’t always mean you’ll need to foot the entire bill for your lawyer. If there’s a significant income disparity between you and your ex, then a court could order your ex to pay to balance that out and create parity.
Forcing the Sale of Assets
Ordering your ex to pay your lawyer’s fees isn’t the only route a court could take if there’s a financial disparity. Another option courts sometimes choose is requiring you to sell assets to pay for your attorney. When this happens, the court takes what you received out of your share of the marital assets after those assets are divided in the divorce.
Matters of Fault
For the most part, fault won’t play a part in regards to who pays for the divorce lawyers. If there was marital misconduct, such as adultery, that doesn’t put the responsibility for lawyer’s fees on the spouse who committed the misconduct.
There is an exception to this. If your ex slows down the divorce process, by having their lawyer file unnecessary motions or by failing to cooperate, then the court could order them to pay some of your lawyer’s fees. The most likely outcome would be that the court orders your ex to pay for any extra fees you have because of how they’ve hampered the legal process.
Alternative Methods to Pay for Your Lawyer
Often, spouses need to pay their lawyers on their own. If you don’t have the money to pay your lawyer and the court won’t force your ex to pay, then you’ll need to consider other funding options. Borrowing money is one option. You could also request that the court allows you to liquidate certain marital assets, such as property or your 401k. Just like if the court ordered you to do this, it will deduct what you use from your share of the assets after everything is divided.
Some lawyers offer payment plans, and there are also private investors who help cover divorce costs in exchange for a share of the assets obtained in the settlement.
The best thing to do is consult with your divorce lawyer to see what your options are. If you’re in a situation where your ex may be obligated to pay your lawyer’s fees, then your lawyer can draft the motion and present that to the court. You’ll have a better chance if you’re at a significant financial disadvantage compared to your ex.