The answer is – It depends.
In most civil lawsuits, there is a winner and a loser, and the Court can force the loser to pay some of the winner’s attorneys’ fees. Divorces work differently. Judges don’t look at family law cases as having a winner or loser. So, whether one spouse will have to pay the other’s fees depends on (1) whether both spouses have an attorney, (2) whether one spouse has enough money to pay for the other’s attorney, and (3) whether one spouse misbehaves during the divorce. Anyway, before court hearing you would need to find a divorce attorney. Check out pnwfamilylaw.com/washington-divorce-lawyer/ and be sure that divorce is your opportunity for a successful future.
If you were to navigate here to divorce lawyers, you’d know that attorneys’ fees in a divorce are broken down into two categories – need-based fees and sanctions.
For need-based fees, the Court wants both sides to be equally and fairly represented. That means the Court try to make sure that one spouse is not left without an attorney -or- that one spouse does not have a lot more money to pay for an attorney. If one spouse has an attorney and access to more money than the other spouse, the Court can find that the low-earner “needs” attorneys’ fees. The Court can make the high-wage earner pay those fees. The Court can make the high-wage earner pay the other spouse’s attorney at any point during the case, and the Court can order more than one payment.
Sanctions are punishment for bad behavior. Courts can sanction a spouse in a divorce if he or she fails to comply with the Court’s orders. For example, if a spouse refuses to turn over financial information according to the law, the Court can sanction that spouse. The Court can also sanction a spouse for being overly litigious (i.e., fighting too much without a good enough reason and forcing the other spouse to pay an attorney to stop the unreasonable fighting). Unlike need-based fees, not all of the laws on sanctions require a judge to figure out whether a spouse can afford to pay sanctions before ordering them. However, judges are almost never required to award sanctions. So, the likelihood of getting sanctions varies. For example, Core Law Group believes the judges in one Southern California county are significantly less likely to to award sanctions than judges in other Southern California counties.
Whether you are afraid you cannot afford an attorney, are trying to avoid paying for your ex’s attorney, or trying to avoid being sanctioned, Core Law Group can help you develop a strategy that serves your goals. Set up an appointment with one of our attorneys and ask about attorneys’ fees.
This blog is not meant to provide legal advice, and the law may have changed since it was written. Every person and every case is different. You should speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.