The divorce process gets increasingly expensive as time passes. One of the primary expenses is the cost of retaining legal representation. As you work on dividing your assets, you may be wondering if you’ll be required to pay for your attorney’s fees or if your spouse will have to cover the cost. Whether a judge will order your spouse to pay your lawyer depends on your individual circumstances. To start thinking whether this option is possible in your situation, we have provided a basic breakdown below.
Deciding Who Pays: Looking at the Whole Picture
In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey divorce cases, the court has the power to order one spouse to pay for the other’s attorney fees. The judge will consider a few factors when making this decision, which include (but are not limited to):
- The extent of the fees and each spouse’s ability to pay for attorney fees. Is one spouse unable to afford legal representation, or is there a significant income gap between the spouses? If so, the spouse who earns the higher income may be ordered to pay some or all of the other spouse’s attorney fees. If the spouses have similar income or the one with less income will end up with substantial marital assets after the divorce, each spouse will likely be required to pay his or her own attorney fees.
- Whether each spouse is acting in good faith during the divorce process. If one spouse’s actions directly led to the need to hire a lawyer or extend the legal proceedings, the judge may order the spouse who acted in bad faith to pay the other’s attorney fees. Making false accusations, refusing to negotiate, or filing unnecessary or too many motions are all examples of acting in bad faith – and those actions can result in an order to pay the other party’s legal fees for incurring that cost.
The court will also consider any additional factors that may help determine who should cover the cost of the attorneys in each specific case.
Using Marital Assets to Pay for Attorney Fees
In some cases, the court will not determine who will be required to pay for attorney fees until the case is nearing its end. Some spouses can request to advance some of the marital assets (such as money in bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and other places) they expect to receive to pay legal fees.
Getting Answers About Your Specific Situation
At Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, our team of experienced lawyers have helped spouses in all types of situations dissolve their marriages. If you’ve decided to get divorced, we can explain what to expect in the future regarding equitable distribution, possible legal costs, and a reasonable timeline based on your individual situation.
Contact our firm today for assistance. We can help you make the most informed decisions possible as you move forward.