Getting The Other Side to Pay For Your Divorce
A contested divorce in Orange County can turn out to be expensive. If your ex-spouse is determined to make a fight out of every issue from child custody to child support and alimony, and even who is going to keep the pets, your divorce proceedings will prolong and the costs can escalate.
If you have a diligent divorce attorney on your side, they can work on the possibility of getting the other side to pay for your legal costs. This is feasible in some cases, but the final outcome will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.
California Law on Legal Costs in a Divorce
According to the state law, you have a right to ask the family court to order the other side to pay for both sides’ legal costs, which include your attorney’s fees. The law provides for this option not with an aim to penalize one side or reward the other, but with a purpose to create evenness in a contested divorce so that both parties can afford to hire a legal counsel.
The law in California allows you to request the judge to order your former spouse or partner to bear the full or partial legal costs so that you are in a position to hire the services of an attorney. You can make this request to the court even before you have actually hired a legal professional to represent you. In case you have already hired an attorney, you should discuss with them about filing this request with the court.
While considering your request to order the other side to pay for your legal fees, the judge will evaluate the following three factors:
- Present income levels and financial needs of both sides
- Any gap or imbalance in the financial ability of both parties to hire a divorce attorney
- Whether one party has the financial capacity to bear the legal costs for both
Leveling the Legal Playing Field
In California, if the family court determines that the income gap between the two parties is exceptionally large, they may agree to one party’s request to order the other (higher-earning) party to contribute to their lawyer’s fees.
The principle that governs this decision is that if one spouse is in a financially strong position and can comfortably afford to bear the legal costs for both sides, while the other spouse is financially weak and may end up proceeding with the divorce case without legal representation in the absence of funds, then one party can be ordered to pay the other’s fees.
This type of order under California law is considered fair as well as necessary so that the “legal playing field” between the two parties can be leveled. In some cases, where a spouse without liquid funds needs cash up front to pay for an attorney, the judge may allow them to utilize a part of the marital property for this purpose.
This will be done on the condition that when the property division is finalized, the other party will be compensated for the difference.
Dual Income Households
As more families in California now have both marital partners doing a job and earning an independent income, it is now less common to see the family courts order one spouse to pay for the legal costs of the other spouse. If the court finds that both spouses are roughly earning a similar amount of money, they will be inclined to order both sides to pay for their lawyer’s fees.
But if you were almost entirely financially dependent on your spouse during marriage, and are now not able to afford a divorce lawyer, you should make the request to get the other side to pay for your attorney fees.
Bad Attitude Drives up Legal Costs
If one or both parties have a poor attitude and insist on behaving badly throughout the divorce proceeding, judges are not going to like it. This is bound to create needless stress, prolong the legal process, and waste the court’s precious time.
Finally, it will end up driving up your attorney fees because they will be forced to spend too much time in disentangling multiple issues that were entirely avoidable. Here are a few typical examples of disruptive legal tactics:
- Filing one motion after another about trivial issues
- Disregarding court orders (and finally complying when threatened with contempt action)
- Intentionally delaying the fulfillment of information requests of the other party (such as not providing requested financial documents)
- Arriving late or failing to appear altogether for a court-ordered mediation or hearing
Even if you and your attorney are diligent, the poor attitude of the other party and/or their attorney can result in the case getting dragged. So, you can end up incurring higher legal costs than you should. Your attorney may have no choice but to file motions to force the other party to comply with court orders, respond to their frivolous motions, and keep visiting the court to request revised hearing schedules.
If you experience this type of intentional disruption and disregard of the legal process, which pushes up your own litigation costs, you may have a good case to get the other side to pay for your lawyer’s fees. A skilled attorney can convince the judge that it is unfair that you should have to bear the costs of the other party’s intentional wrong behavior.
Hire the Services of a Committed Divorce Lawyer
When you have an experienced Orange County divorce attorney by your side, it gets easier to show to the court that you are unable to afford the legal fees, while your ex-spouse is in a position to afford to the legal costs of both sides.
Make sure you choose a divorce lawyer who is knowledgeable in this area and is willing to help you negotiate the payment of your legal costs. A number of legal strategies are available that could help you win attorney’s fees, provided your divorce lawyer can successfully argue in this matter before the court.