Your spouse told you out of the blue that they want a divorce, so you were completely caught off guard. What can you do if you can’t afford a lawyer to help you get a divorce? Can your ex be made to pay your court costs and legal fees?
When a divorce means trouble with money
If you are the lower-earning spouse or the parent who stayed home with the kids, the end of your marriage, especially if it happened quickly, can leave you in a lot of financial trouble. In a perfect world, spouses could quickly agree on alimony, access to the money they made together, and other ways to help each other.
In most divorces, however, money is a point of contention, and often a very heated one. The person who wants to leave the marriage may “cut off” the other person’s access to bank accounts or credit cards, or they may refuse to pay for any of the other person’s living costs. In other cases, there may have been years of financial abuse in the marriage.
Not only do spouses who don’t have access to money or support find it hard to pay for basic needs, but when the divorce process starts, with all its deadlines and court dates, it can feel impossible to hire an attorney.
When deciding whether to award attorney fees and, if so, how much to award, the courts look at a number of important factors. Among these things are:
- How much money each partner has;
- How much money is needed to pay for the fees;
- Whether or not the parties’ positions are fair;
- Have the money to pay the fees; and
- Any awards of attorney fees in the past.
For example, if one spouse is the head surgeon at a large hospital and the other spouse stayed home to raise the couple’s special needs child and has no outside income, it might be reasonable to ask the courts to make the high-earning spouse pay some or all of the at-home spouse’s attorney fees. By doing this, the courts help to level the playing field in divorce and make sure that money doesn’t affect how things turn out.
Are you eligible for your spouse to pay your legal fees? Set up a meeting with one of our very experienced family law attorneys to find out what your rights are and what your best choices are. Get answers to all your questions about divorce. To get in touch, please call us at (270) 558-4790 or click the button below.