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Can I Be Forced to Pay My Spouse’s Attorney Fees in Our Divorce?

Divorces are not only emotionally draining, but they can also be financially draining as well. This is especially true when your former spouse decides that they want you to pay their attorney fees. 

Although in most divorce proceedings, each party in the divorce action will be responsible for paying their own attorney fees and costs, there are some circumstances in which a court may award a husband or wife to pay their spouse’s attorney fees and expenses. 

To better help you understand what these circumstances entail, we have prepared the following blog post. In it, we will discuss what situations may result in you paying your spouse’s attorney fees and what actions you can take to prevent this from happening. 

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Louisiana? 

Divorce can get expensive. Divorce courts often charge filing fees when you file a petition for divorce and additional fees for any motions that you file during the course of your divorce proceedings. You will also be required to cover the costs of serving your spouse with the divorce paperwork. However, these fees vary from parish to parish, so it is essential to check the local court website for further information regarding these costs and what they entail.  

In addition, to these court costs, you will also incur legal fees if you hire a lawyer. Typically, these divorce lawyers charge clients an hourly rate, which can vary depending on the attorney’s experience and skills. As a result, a contested divorce can end up costing thousands of dollars in both legal fees and court costs if you and your spouse continue to fight and cannot work out a settlement deal. 

Who Pays For the Divorce Attorney Fees in Louisiana? 

In general, most divorce cases require each party to pay for their own attorney fees. However, there are certain situations that may arise that can result in the court requiring you to pay for your spouse’s attorney fees. These situations typically include the following scenarios: 

  • In an at-fault divorce, the at-fault party may be ordered to pay the other party’s fees simply as punishment for their cheating or other marital misconduct. 
  • If a party continues to file unnecessary motions or drag the proceedings out by refusing to cooperate, the court may award attorney fees to the other party. In these instances, the fee award would not pay for the entire divorce, rather just the extra time and court appearances caused by the party’s bad faith.
  • If a party is held in contempt of court for failing to follow court orders, the judge may award attorney fees to the other spouse to punish the party for improper conduct and deter further wrongful actions.
  • If one spouse makes more money than the other, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees. This often happens when a judge finds that it is not fair for one party to battle against a high-powered lawyer without being able to afford counsel of their own.

However, even if a judge awards these fees, they may deduct what you paid for the divorce lawyer from your spouse’s share of the joint assets when the division of property is final. 

How to Decrease Your Chance of Paying Your Spouse’s Attorney Fees 

If you are worried that you may have to pay your spouse’s attorney fees, it is important to discuss the issue with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can help walk you through the process and give you a better idea of the likelihood of this happening. However, in addition, to this legal help, there are things you can do to limit the chance that you will have to pay your spouse’s substantial attorney fees.

Consider the following actions:

  • Liquidate Your Joint Accounts: Agree to liquidate a joint account, so you both have funds to pay for a lawyer. This way, it will be less likely that the court will require you to pay for your spouse’s attorney through your separate funds or earnings. 
  • Pay For Your Own Legal Help: If someone is gifting you money to pay for your legal fees, then your income will be more available to pay for your spouse’s attorney. On the other hand, if you paid your legal fees through a credit card or a loan and you will have to pay this money back, then it may be considered a hardship that will be taken into consideration before a judge decides you need to pay your spouse’s attorney costs. 
  • Play Fair: Make sure to play fair and make every effort to resolve the issues outside of the courtroom. In many instances, if you can show that you are trying to be reasonable and remain transparent, the court is less likely to award your spouse attorney fees.
  • Accurately State Your Expenses: In instances where you make more money than your spouse, you want to make sure you accurately state and prove your expenses. This is because if you have massive student loan payments or other sizable support payments, you may have very little net income, which can factor in the court denying attorney fees to your spouse. 

If you are going through a divorce, it is important that you obtain legal help that you can trust. At the law firm of Betsy A. Fischer, LLC, we can become your go-to legal resource for all of your family law issues in the Greater New Orleans area. This means that if your spouse is trying to get you to pay their attorney fees, speak with our firm to discuss your rights and let us show you how we can assist you in protecting your interests throughout the divorce proceedings. Do not wait any longer. Contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC online today, or call our office at 504.565.2781 for further information.

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