Who Pays Attorney Fees in Divorce Court?
When couples separate, it is often a time of conflict. This is especially true when it comes to financial matters such as who pays attorney fees in divorce court. In this article, we will examine some of the legal issues that surround these questions and explore what you can expect when it comes to who should pay what in a divorce case.
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In New York, the spouse with more income and resources typically shoulders the majority of the burden for attorney fees and expenses. This arrangement is designed to encourage equal representation in divorce proceedings and prevent the less-income spouse from obtaining a better outcome due to financial considerations alone.
The Willingness to Settle – New York courts generally encourage the settlement of cases as it saves both parties time and money and can be beneficial for the future financial security of the children. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a court to favor the spouse who has been more willing to settle their divorce cases and avoid prolonging the litigation process out of spite.
Bad Faith – When a party in a divorce case acts in bad faith by misrepresenting assets, hiding information, or prolonging the litigation process without reason, a judge may award the at-fault spouse some or all of their attorney fees. This is not always the case, however, and it can be a tricky decision to make.
There are a number of factors that the judge considers in making this decision. These include whether the spouse is a dependent, the disposable income of each spouse, and the circumstances that led to the breakdown of the marriage.
A party is deemed a dependent when they are entitled to support from the other spouse and their disposable income is insufficient to support a reasonable standard of living. This is usually done by looking at the spouse’s income minus necessary living expenses and any property that the spouse owns separately.
If you are a dependent spouse in North Carolina, the court may award you attorney fees and/or alimony as part of your separation agreement. The court may also award needs-based spousal support if you are awarded custody of the children.
The Less-Monied Spouse Needs to Have Skin in the Game – In many divorces, the lower-income spouse ends up paying for all of the litigation costs, resulting in an enormous bill that could be used to punish their ex. To put an end to that, courts have stepped in more frequently and ordered the higher-income spouse to pay for some or all of their former spouse’s litigation costs.
This has resulted in the lower-income spouse being able to obtain an equitable division of their ex’s marital assets, including their bank accounts and debts. It has also helped put an end to the spouse who prolongs litigation out of spite, avoiding the issue of attorney fees and thereby keeping their ex in the dark about their finances.
In addition, the spouse who unnecessarily takes issues to trial or prolongs the divorce process out of spite may also receive some or all of their ex’s legal fees. This can serve as a warning to the spouse who is acting in bad faith and can help encourage them to act more maturely and rationally during the litigation process.