Man counting money

Can I Have My Spouse Pay For Both Divorce Attorneys?

If your spouse agrees to pay for both divorce attorneys, certainly it is possible.

Some attorneys may be reluctant to accept payment from the other spouse, citing conflict of interest concerns, but I would expect most would be okay with it. Even if the attorney does not want to take direct payment from your spouse, your spouse could always give you the money for paying the bills.

Keep in mind that even if your spouse agrees to pay your attorney fees, the attorney’s contract is still with you, and you remain primarily responsible for making sure the bill gets paid, one way or the other.

The more difficult question is whether you can force the your spouse to pay for both attorney fees. The short answer is you cannot, but the court can. The court has the authority to order your spouse to pay towards your attorney fees. The court can order the spouse to advance a certain amount for current and future fees, or it can order the spouse to reimburse you a specific amount for past fees.

Generally an attorney is not going to take on a case without some fees advanced up front, which means you will need to come up with the initial deposit yourself. Once you have hired the attorney, they can bring a motion asking the court to require the other spouse to pay some amount towards your attorney fees. Also, at trial, your attorney can ask the court to include a judgment for attorney fees in the final orders.

The usual standard for evaluating attorney fee requests is “need and ability to pay”. This means that the court looks at how much the one party needs help with their legal expenses, and at how much the other party has the ability to help pay those expenses.

Typically the amount the court awards is only a portion of the total legal expenses. You remain responsible to your attorney for any amount the court has not ordered the other side to pay, and in fact also for any amount the other side is ordered to pay but fails to pay.

For this reason many attorneys will still require you to front the money, and then seek reimbursement from your spouse.