If you’re like many people, you’re wondering, “Can my spouse make me pay for the cost of a divorce?”
In fact, a lot of people – particularly those with a non-working spouse or one who makes far less than the other – ask us the same question.
Can My Spouse Make Me Pay for the Cost of Divorce?
In some cases, the court can order you to pay the cost of divorce for your spouse, but it’s not always reasonable. Sometimes one spouse asks the court for a “need-based fee award,” which is the primary option for most people. In other cases, the court orders one party to pay the other’s legal fees as a type of penalty.
What is a Need-Based Fee Award?
Under California law, the courts are allowed to order one party to pay for the other’s legal fees during divorce. The law says:
“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation of the parties, and in any proceeding subsequent to entry of a related judgment, the court shall ensure that each party has access to legal representation, including access early in the proceedings, to preserve each party’s rights by ordering, if necessary based on the income and needs assessments, one party, except a governmental entity, to pay to the other party, or to the other party’s attorney, whatever amount is reasonably necessary for attorney’s fees and for the cost of maintaining or defending the proceeding during the pendency of the proceeding.”
In order to make this determination, the court has to look at each party’s ability to pay, which includes each person’s assets, current income, investments and more. The court will limit the amount to what’s reasonably necessary to reach a fair, equitable settlement.
Courts can also award reasonable costs related to the case, such as those that pay for accountants, appraisers and other experts.
If your spouse has applied for a need-based fee award, your attorney will help preserve your rights during your divorce.
When the Courts Order One Party to Pay the Cost of Divorce as a Penalty
The court’s primary interest in a divorce case – other than looking out for the best interests of the children, if you have them – is to get the proceeding over with as quickly and simply as possible. Sometimes, though, one spouse tries to prolong litigation in an effort to “wear out” the other spouse or ends up trying to use the legal system as a means toward revenge.
When that happens, that party’s legal fees go up with every frivolous request or document filed with the court – and it’s not fair to them at all. Sometimes in situations like these, courts order the other party to pay court costs and legal fees (or at least a portion of them). It’s a way of punishing the party that’s acting in bad faith as well as helping the party who’s not doing anything wrong. It’s also an incentive to make sure you’re not the one acting in bad faith.
Is Your Spouse Demanding You Pay for the Cost of Divorce?
If your spouse is demanding that you pay for your divorce, or if he or she is unnecessarily dragging out the case, you may want to call us at (209)546-6870 to schedule a consultation with California divorce attorney Anna Maples today. We’ll ask you questions about your case and start building a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.