Many people considering divorce are worried about the cost, but it’s not just about the court fees. What about paying for an attorney? Depending on the complexity of the divorce, a lawyer may cost you anywhere from a few hundred bucks to – under very specific circumstances – thousands of dollars.

In a divorce, who is actually responsible for paying these attorney’s fees? It’s not as straightforward of an answer as you might think.

It’s usually your responsibility – but not always

Generally speaking, if you choose to hire a divorce lawyer for legal support during a separation, you are responsible for paying attorney’s fees. However, you can ask the court to consider making your soon-to-be former spouse pay for these legal costs. This can be for an action related to:

  • Divorce
  • Divorce and alimony
  • Contempt of court arising out of one of those two actions

Whether or not the judge accepts the request is at his or her discretion.

How the court decides

When weighing whether to order one spouse to pay for the attorney’s fees of another during a divorce, the court is supposed to take into account the financial situation of each party. For example, if one partner was the main earner and the other does not have access to their accounts, the judge might take that into consideration.

If the judge grants the request, they may order the costs to be covered as they come up, or paid as a lump sum at the end of the proceedings. It is also possible the judge decides only a certain amount of the attorney’s fees be covered, not the full amount.

Unfortunately, there is no clear way to know beforehand what a judge might decide. Having the proper legal support in order to make the best case for your request can be a factor, but there are no guarantees one way or the other.