Can I Get my Ex to Pay my Divorce Attorney Fees?

So often in Utah divorce, one person makes more money than the other.

The Money Disparity Problem

Spouses making different amounts of income isn’t a problem in a good marriage because couples combine their incomes and work together to make ends meet. In other words, they act as one when it comes to money.

Then divorce happens, and they stop acting as one. At this point, is people start hoarding money so the other person can’t get to it.

Obviously, this situation benefits the spouse who makes more money. He or she doesn’t have to share, which means they have more money, which means he or she can spend more money on the divorce. And more money usually brings better results.

That’s the real problem.

How Can You Fix this Problem?

There are a couple ways we use to fix this money disparity problem.

First, we set up temporary child support and temporary alimony. (Often, we do this by filing temporary orders.) Once these payments are flowing from the spouse with more money to the spouse with less money, things tend to equalize a bit.

For example, if a wife makes $3000 per month and her husband makes $10,000 per month, we’d ask for temporary child support and alimony. Let’s imagine child support is $1000 per month and temporary alimony is $1500 per month. That gets mom up to $5500 per month and dad down to $7500 per month. Not exactly equal, but a lot closer than before.

Second, we ask the court to set aside some marital money to pay for attorney fees. Usually, we do this by taking money from the spouse who makes more and giving it to the spouse who makes less, so that less-well-off spouse can pay a divorce attorney.

To set this money aside, we have to prove (1) the less-well-off spouse cannot afford an attorney, and (2) the more-well-off spouse has the ability to pay.

Let’s think through a couple possibilities to see how this works in real life.

Scenario 1: Wife makes way more than Husband, and they have $50,000 in a joint savings account. Husband asks the court to set aside $20,000 of the savings account for his attorney fees so he can pay his attorney. Wife doesn’t like that idea and says no because that money was a rainy-day fund. In all likelihood, the court’s going to let Husband use that $20,000 to pay his attorney since that money is there and can be used.

Scenario 2: Husband makes way more than Wife. He cuts Wife off from the money and won’t give her anything. Wife paid her divorce attorney something to start the process, but can’t keep paying. They have no savings. Wife’s attorney asks the court to force Husband to pay (in addition to temporary alimony) $500 per month toward Wife’s divorce attorney. Problem is that after Husband pays temporary child support and temporary alimony, he has no money left. In all likelihood, the court won’t give Wife the $500 per month because Husband can’t afford it.

How often Does a Spouse Pay the other Spouse’s Divorce Attorney Fees?

One of the sad realities about divorce in Utah is there’s usually not enough money to go around.

This means that in the vast majority of cases people pay their own divorce attorney fees.

This doesn’t seem right when one spouse makes more than another, and I agree that it’s probably not right. It is reality, though, and you may need to prepare that.

This means that if you’re the spouse with less money, you may need to lean on parents, family members, friends, or credit cards to pay for your attorney. Start with parents first; they’re usually the most willing to help, but don’t count out uncles and aunts or brothers or sisters. Your family is truly your lifeline in situations like this.

Published On: May 20th, 2017Categories: DebtComments Off on Can I Get my Ex to Pay my Divorce Attorney Fees?
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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