Attorney Fees In A Divorce
A divorce can be a financially daunting undertaking, especially if one spouse does not want to pursue a divorce or it comes as a total shock. An often-contested component of any divorce is attorney fees and who is obligated to pay said fees.
Texas is a community property state, so any assets or debts accrued during the marriage are subject to a just and right division in a divorce. Texas does not have legal separation so the marriage lasts until the date a Final Decree of Divorce is signed and rendered. What this means is any attorney fees incurred throughout the divorce process are a community debt, even if the parties are separated and pursuing a divorce.
A Texas family law court will not order the party that filed for divorce to pay the non-filing spouse’s attorney fees as a punitive measure. Any Texas resident is entitled to file for divorce; forcing the filing party to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees as punishment is not typically an attainable goal. That is not to say obtaining attorney fees is unattainable, but it is not automatic.
Texas Considers Community Assets & Debts
The Texas family law court will consider all of the community assets and debts along with the financial needs and capabilities of the parties before awarding any attorney fees. If there is a disparity in income between the parties, for example if one spouse makes substantially more than the other or one spouse has remained at home and has no means of income, then the court would probably be more inclined to order the financially solvent spouse to pay a portion or all of the lesser financially inclined spouse’s fees. This can be done by an agreement, should the parties go to mediation, or by order of the court after a hearing on the issue of attorney fees.
Request Temporary Fees During Case
During the pendency of a divorce, a party can request temporary fees if they are unable to pay for legal representation and their spouse has the means and ability to pay. If a Motion for Interim Attorney Fees has been filed, the judge will review the existing attorney fees that have accumulated, the resources of each party (which can include cash on hand, spending power on credit cards, ability to borrow from family, retirement assets which can be borrowed against) and make a decision as to whether one party is obligated to pay for the other’s legal expenses. Often a judge will order a party to make a lump sum payment or a dollar for dollar contribution. For example, whatever the husband pays to his legal counsel he must pay to his wife’s counsel as well.
To help their counsel prepare for such a hearing, it is important for clients to provide current bank statements, credit card statements, an updated Financial Information Statement, paycheck stubs and any other financial statements that can help support the legal argument for attorney fees to be awarded (or defended against, if that is the case).
Attorney Fees Accounted For On Final
Attorney fees are also taken into account during the final property settlement discussions or litigation. As any fees accrued through the divorce process are considered a community debt, it’s important that parties and their attorneys present a detailed accounting of all fees incurred up to the date of mediation or litigation and a projection of the fees needed to finalize the divorce matter.
Attorney fees quite frequently represent a sizable part of the community’s debt at the time of divorce so both parties should be mindful in the existing attorney fee debt when dividing the remainder of the community estate’s debts and assets. The court will most certainly take attorney fees into account when deciding how to divide the estate in a just and right division.
Aside from financial need, another way a court could order that attorney’s fees be paid is if one party acts in bad faith. For example, if a party refuses to comply with the discovery process or refuses to schedule a court-required mediation, then the judge may feel such intentional difficulty may warrant attorney fees being ordered. This can be done as a result of a hearing or the judge may order it on his or her own motion.
Contact Ramos Law Group, PLLC Today.
The divorce process can be lengthy and expensive and it is important to have a legal team that can help you navigate the divorce process and help achieve your goals. If you are going through a divorce or believe that a divorce is your only option, please contact the attorneys at the Ramos Law Group, PLLC. The licensed Texas family law attorneys can discuss your case, your concerns about attorney fees in a divorce, and help strategize a course of action.