Can I Make My Spouse Pay My Attorney’s Fees in Our Divorce?

A divorce in Monroe can be a difficult time for a couple who did not anticipate separating when they said their marriage vows at the altar. The divorce process can be quite stressful: Not only are you forced to divide your assets, but each side will incur attorneys’ fees for virtually everything that a divorce involves. Most North Carolina family law firms charge by the hour; meaning, the client is billed for time spent on the case including phone calls with the client, meetings, court appearances, legal research, emails, and other time spent crafting the best arguments for the case. While these costs can add up, it is important to understand that not investing in legal representation in your divorce case will put you at a significant legal disadvantage – especially if your spouse makes the wise decision to hire an experienced and aggressive attorney.

Seeking Payment of Attorney’s Fees

For the reasons stated above, one of the most common questions asked by those going through a divorce in Union County is whether or not he or she can get the other side to pay their part of the attorneys’ fees. Thankfully, there are several remedies under the law that can allow for the one spouse in a divorce to have the other spouse pay for attorneys’ fees. First, if you are a dependent spouse who qualifies for alimony payments or any other type of post-separation support, then you have the ability to petition the court for an award of attorneys’ fees regarding your divorce. Second, a North Carolina court order awarding attorney’s fees to one spouse means that the paying spouse is obligated to assume the legal responsibility for the receiving spouse’s reasonable attorney’s fees. An award of attorney’s fees is also available to a spouse if he or she can show that the other spouse has behaved in bad faith, causing the litigation to drag out unnecessarily as a result. Third, even if an award of attorneys’ fees would not be applicable under your specific circumstances, you may still petition a North Carolina court seeking an advance of your portion of division of property from the divorce if you are still having difficulty paying your legal fees.

Requirements for Award of Attorney’s Fees

As discussed above, the scenarios in which a person may qualify for an award of attorney’s fees in a Union County divorce case include if he or she is considered a dependent spouse in need or if he or she can show that the other spouse acted in bad faith and is at fault for dragging out the divorce proceedings.

Dependent Spouse in Need

North Carolina law states that if a spouse qualifies as a “dependent” spouse, meaning he or she is entitled to alimony or other post-separation financial support, the court has the authority to demand that the other spouse pay the dependent spouse’s reasonable attorneys’ fees relating to parts of the divorce case.

In order to qualify as a dependent spouse and receive alimony or other post-separation financial support, a North Carolina court must determine that the spouse depends on the other for support and maintenance. The most common example of a dependent spouse is a stay-at-home spouse – someone who sacrificed a career or earning potential in order to raise the couple’s children and maintain the household. A working spouse, however, can also be determined as dependent. Often times, one spouse has all financial accounts and assets under his or her name, causing the dependent spouse to be unable to have access to these funds to pay for his or her attorney’s fees.

When making a determination as to awarding attorney’s fees, a North Carolina court will consider several factors including the dependent spouse’s disposable income as well as any separately owned property.

Bad Faith and/or Fault of Spouse

Sometimes a North Carolina court will rule that attorney’s fees be paid by one spouse to the other not based on the financial status of the receiving party but based on the fault of the paying party. This is because sometimes one side of a divorce case will use bad faith behavior, causing the lawsuit to drag out unnecessarily and increasing the innocent spouse’s attorney’s fees. This may occur by one spouse engaging in frivolous litigation by making false accusations, disobeying a court order, hiding assets, or refusing to provide required documents to the other side. In such circumstances, a North Carolina family law judge may, at his or her discretion, order the at-fault party to pay a portion or all of the other party’s attorneys’ fees associated with the divorce case.

Legal Help in Waxhaw

While it may seem counterintuitive to think you may need an attorney to help you prove that you cannot afford an attorney, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith PLLC are experienced in helping clients negotiate and win attorney’s fees in North Carolina divorce cases.Contact us today to arrange a consultation with one of our family law attorneys about your case.