Getting Your Spouse to Pay for Attorneys Fees During Mooresville Divorce
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of divorce understands the seemingly fundamental truth that the divorce process can be an expensive endeavor. There’s the cost of dividing your property, the cost of establishing a new residence, the cost of time wasted, court fees, and, lest we forget, the cost of an attorney to guide you through the process. Though there are ways to contain costs that everyone should employ, for some that may not be enough and even with diligence the costs will be more than they can sustain. What happens in those cases?
A common question from people preparing for divorce concerns whether it is possible to force your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees. Lawyers can be expensive, especially in more complex or contentious cases. The more issues there are to resolve, the more money it will take. Though the whole thing can be daunting, it is important to remember the cliché that you get what you pay for. Though it might be tempting to consider handling your divorce on your own, thus saving money, don’t underestimate the value in having an experienced local family law attorney guiding you down the uncertain path of divorce.
So what are your options if you need help paying your bills, is it possible to get your spouse to chip in? The good news is that there are options for requiring your former partner to contribute to the cost of your legal bills. The first situation that spouses often get legal fee assistance involves dependent spouses. Another situation is when one party has acted in bad faith and legal fees are a way of penalizing that party’s behavior. Let’s explore both in a bit more detail.
So what is a dependent spouse? Under North Carolina law, a dependent spouse is most easily identified as a party who is able to receive money for alimony or other post-separation support. If you have been awarded these funds by the court, you will be potentially eligible for an award of attorney’s fees. More technically speaking, a dependent spouse is someone who depends substantially on the other party for maintenance and support. A classic example of a dependent spouse is a stay-at-home parent who gave up his or her career to raise the kids while the other party worked to earn a living. This party depends on the other for financial support and courts are willing to take that financial reliance into account when considering attorney’s fees.
Are dependent spouses limited to stay-at-home parents? No, not at all. Sometimes both parties work, but one makes substantially more than the other and the lifestyle of the one spouse depends largely on the income of the other. When judges are asked to decide questions concerning financial dependency, they take a range of factors into consideration, including income, disposable income, assets, debts and other sources of possible support.
What about bad faith? Though it’s rare that bad behavior will result in such a steep penalty, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility. A judge may decide that one party’s conduct is so egregious that the other party deserves to be compensated by having his or her attorney’s fees paid for. A good example of this is when one party acts out, filing frivolous motions or continues litigation long after it is necessary despite the lack of a valid legal case. In both instances, a judge can decide to punish the bad actor, requiring him or her to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney’s fees.
So how do you go about asking for attorney’s fees to be paid for? It’s very rare that the court will take action to award attorney’s fees on its own. Instead, it’s up to the attorney of the spouse in need of the funds to raise the issue in court and ask for an award of fees. Best practice calls for attorneys to raise this issue as early as possible, giving the judge an opportunity to consider the issue before diving into the case. This also allows the dependent spouse to get access to money to fund the divorce up front, rather than trying to get reimbursed after the fact.
If you are in the midst of filing for divorce and are worried about the costs associated, now is a good time to reach out to an experienced Mooresville, North Carolina family law attorney. The lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have spent years fighting for their clients and can put that experience to work for you. A skilled family lawyer can analyze your case and help put forward the best argument possible for why your legal fees should be paid by your spouse. If you have questions or concerns, contact us today at (704) 370-2828.