How to Find Out if Your Ex Will Pay Your Legal Fees in a Divorce

If you are approaching divorce in North Carolina, you might be wondering whether your ex will pay your legal fees. For spouses with very little financial security, it is important to address this question as soon as possible. After all, your ability to approach your divorce in an efficient manner depends on your ability to cover legal fees. While there are many ways to lower the cost of a divorce, this process certainly is not free, and every dollar helps. How exactly do you determine whether your ex will pay your legal fees in North Carolina?

Your Ex May Only be Required to Cover Some of Your Legal Fees

First of all, you should not assume that your ex will be forced to cover all of your legal fees. Under North Carolina law, a judge can only order a spouse to cover their ex’s legal fees in certain situations. These include disputes over child custody, child support, and spousal support. The only remaining type of divorce-related dispute involves property division – so you may need to cover fees related to equitable distribution yourself.

It is also important to understand that there is no guarantee that your ex will pay your legal fees – even in situations related to child custody, child support, and spousal support. While North Carolina law creates a “pathway” for judges to order these payments, judges are under no obligation to do so. They use their own discretion on a case-by-case basis to determine whether such decisions are necessary.

If you simply assume that your ex will pay your legal fees in a North Carolina divorce, you are making a considerable leap of faith. Base your entire legal strategy on this assumption, and you may eventually discover that you do not have the necessary funds to move forward. A more measured approach is optimal, and you should base your legal strategy on the funds that you actually have available.

Wealthier Spouses Have a Higher Chance of Paying Their Ex’s Legal Fees

With that said, it is fair to assume that a wealthier, higher-earning spouse has a significant chance of paying their ex's legal fees. Of the various factors that judges consider when approaching this decision, income and assets are perhaps the most important. However, they also consider the financial situation of the other spouse – including inheritance and other resources that may not be immediately obvious.

The general logic behind this approach is simple: The ex of a wealthy spouse is probably going to receive some of the marital property at the conclusion of the divorce. When judges force these wealthy spouses to pay their exes’ legal fees, they essentially allow the exes to access the marital property early. In the eyes of the family court, they will eventually get access to these funds anyway.

Marital Misconduct and the Payment of Legal Fees

In divorces that involve marital misconduct, the “guilty” spouse may be forced to pay their ex’s legal fees. For example, courts may discover that one spouse is attempting to conceal assets. This is a breach of fiduciary duty, and it is unlawful in North Carolina. Although there are many consequences that a spouse may face for this misconduct, judges may order them to pay their ex’s legal fees as punishment.

The same basic logic applies to some instances of infidelity. If it becomes clear that one spouse had an affair during the marriage, a judge may order the adulterous spouse to pay their ex’s legal fees. This may be especially common if the affair leads to financial losses for the couple. For example, the affair may have involved expensive gifts and luxurious vacations.

Ask Your Lawyer Whether Your Ex Will Pay Your Legal Fees

If you are not sure whether your ex will be forced to pay your legal fees, consider asking a qualified divorce lawyer. A lawyer can tell you whether this might be possible – and they can also pursue the legal fees on your behalf.

Find a Divorce Lawyer in North Carolina

If you believe that your ex should be forced to pay your legal fees in North Carolina, consider working alongside a qualified divorce lawyer to explore this possibility further. If your ex earned much more than you during the marriage, you should have the right to use your marital property to pay for your legal fees. Book a consultation with Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to discuss this matter in more detail. We understand that many high-net-worth marriages in North Carolina may have significant income disparities, and we can help you strive for a fair outcome. Book your consultation today to take the next step.