Can your spouse be required to pay your legal fees in a divorce?

Even relatively amicable, uncomplicated divorces cost money. When you hire an attorney, you will have to pay them for their time and services. However, having an attorney who knows how the process goes, understands Arizona family law and will work to get you a fair settlement can save you money in the long run.

Many people hope that they can require their spouse to pay their attorney’s and other legal fees as part of the divorce settlement. Your spouse may agree to this arrangement, particularly if that spouse is the one who wants the divorce or feels guilty about their actions that led to the break-up.

However, if you take the request to a judge, it’s unlikely that they’ll order your spouse to pay your fees unless there are specific extenuating circumstances.

For example, a judge may require one spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees, at least up to a reasonable amount, if that spouse has considerably more money and/or the other spouse is suffering extreme financial hardship.

A judge may also determine that one spouse has behaved so egregiously that they should pay the other spouse’s fees. What a judge deems “egregious” can be highly subjective.

Some couples, when drawing up a prenuptial agreement, include a provision that requires a spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees if they challenge the prenup in the divorce or under other circumstances. It’s up to a judge to determine whether to honor that provision, however.

It’s not a good idea to go into a divorce with the assumption that your spouse will pay your attorney’s fees or any other legal fees. Even if they say they will, that alone doesn’t legally bind them to. That’s why it’s always wise to discuss fees with any Arizona family law attorneys whom you are considering to represent you and throughout the divorce process if unexpected complications arise.

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