Who Pays Attorney Fees in Divorce?

Deciding who should provide attorney fees in a divorce is not always straight forward and may come down too many factors. Who pays Attorney Fees in Divorce? Depends on the evaluations of these factors which include the financial condition of the spouses, their behavior during the divorce, and the nature of the assets involved. Bellow article will provide you some points with court orders, where a court may require the other spouse to pay the divorce fee.

How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Charge?

Who pays Attorney Fees in Divorce

How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Charge?

A divorce lawyer provides a wide range of services depends on the litigation of divorce. The services include:

  • Researching and Collecting evidence for case
  • Preparing and filing legal papers with the court
  • Establishing child custody and parenting agreements
  • Representing you in court hearings
  • Negotiating and preparing a settlement agreement

A divorce lawyers usually charge an hourly fee; you may be required to pay a retainer up front. This is a deposit to engage their services. The specific amount you will pay for a divorce varies based on many factors including the complexity of your case as well as whether you and your spouse can agree on outside the court settlement. However, the average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000

The cost of divorce isn’t always an attorney fee but also several factors associate with it. These factors are:

Attorney fees: On average an attorney will ask for a $3,000 to $5,000 retainer upfront fee. The hourly rate will depend on the level of experience of a lawyer and usually ranges from $100 – $400 per hour. 

Nature of assets: Both parties must divide their assets, such as stocks, mortgages, loans, investments, earnings, or profits acquired during the marriage, fairly and equitably. Assets complicate the divorce because the attorney must determine the contribution of each party to the value of the assets. 

Filing fees: To filling your case to court a lawyer have to pay some court fee which is different in all states but cost a minimum of $100 in a state like Wyoming and a maximum of $400 in a state like Alabama. 

Child custody evaluation: If a couple cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will recommend a child custody evaluation. A court-appointed evaluator will charge between $1,000 to $2,500. 

Forensic accounts: A forensic accountant will get hired by your lawyer, if you think that your spouse is hiding assets or income. The hourly rate will be between $300 and $500, and the amount of time they spend on your case will be dependent on its complexity. 

How To Make Your Spouse To Pay Your Legal Fees In A Divorce?

How To Make Your Spouse To Pay Your Legal Fees In A Divorce

How To Make Your Spouse To Pay Your Legal Fees In A Divorce?

Each spouse usually pays their own fee but there are some situations where the court may order one spouse to pay legal expenses for the other. If you cannot afford an attorney fee, you could ask the court to require your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees. Or in some cases if the court feels that the other spouse improperly increases the case complexity to increase the lawyer fee, the court may require your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees.

Needs-Based Fee Awards

If you are financially dependent on your spouse, the court will likely order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees if you want divorce. It is important to keep equal rights to get better legal console. Need based fee awards either applied in these conditions:

  • If you were a stay-at-home spouse or a stay-at-home parent
  • If you earn lesser then your spouse and depends on your spousal support.
  • If you do not have access to your funds because of your spouse’s conduct, such as in situations where your spouse took money from your joint bank accounts

Conduct-Based Fee Awards

If your spouse improperly trying to increase your cost of divorce to increase, the court may also order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees. This occurs even if you do not demonstrate financial need because your spouse’s conduct caused you to incur the fees.

For example, your spouse’s misconduct includes the following situations:

  • If your spouse doesn’t appear in court
  • If your spouse does not respond to requests for documents
  • If your spouse doesn’t cooperate during divorce proceedings
  • If your spouse makes meritless claims or pursues litigation solely for the purpose of making the divorce more difficult and expensive.

In an opinion dated July 20, 2023, the Michigan Court of Appeals examined the question of who pays attorney fees in divorce in the case of Zuidersma v. Zuidersma, a case originating in the Grand Traverse Circuit Court. In this case, the husband appealed the trial courts order awarding his wife $10,000 in attorney fees after the court determined that the husband made unsupported legal claims and other misconduct.

“. . . the attorney fees must have been incurred because of misconduct.

Reed vs. Reed.

Factors That Determine Who Pays Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases

Factors That Determine Who Pays Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases

Factors That Determine Who Pays Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases

Regarding the retainer fees, there are cases where each party has to bear the attorney fees for their side in most divorces. Nonetheless, the court can occasionally mandate one spouse to pay some or all of the other’s legal expense. Key factors the court considers include:

1. Financial Situations

As a general rule, the court requires the higher income earning spouse to contribute to some of the legal costs for the other, particularly if the other was home based or resigned from the workplace to care for the kids.

2. Conduct of the Parties

Courts prefer settlements since these save time and overall costs of handling cases. It is considered positive if one party is willing to compromise while the other is not, for instance, if the negotiating parties have different attitudes towards compromise. On the other hand, if one spouse unreasonably brings issues to trial, fails to cooperate in a settlement, or even acts improperly (as may be the case with a spouse who hides assets), that individual may be required to reimburse the other’s legal costs.

3. Services Provided by Counsel

Both parties must be able to choose their lawyer and the court will only partially award fees if one party has filed for too many lawsuits. The fees awarded must also be realistic and have a basis in the services delivered.

4. Resources of the Parties

Especially in high-asset cases, some courts may not award legal fees even if there are income differences because both parties have adequate resources.

It is noteworthy that fees can be granted at any time, during preliminary motions, temporary orders, final orders, appeals, and post judgment and post decree proceedings. Fee requests are made less frequently after the divorce decree, perhaps such requests are not easy to make. That is why if one spouse demands attorney fees, the court tends to rule in favor of a lump sum rather than periodic payments, especially if the requesting spouse possesses readily available cash, including cash on hand or cash equivalents.

Michigan Compiled Laws Section 552.13(1), which specifically authorizes a court to require either party to “pay any sums necessary to enable the adverse party to carry on or defend the action” for divorce.

  (1) In every action brought, either for a divorce or for a separation, the court may require either party to pay alimony for the suitable maintenance of the adverse party, to pay such sums as shall be deemed proper and necessary to conserve any real or personal property owned by the parties or either of them, and to pay any sums necessary to enable the adverse party to carry on or defend the action, during its pendency. It may award costs against either party and award execution for the same, or it may direct such costs to be paid out of any property sequestered, or in the power of the court, or in the hands of a receiver.

MCL 552.13(1)

What If I Have No Money For Attorney Fees?

What If I Have No Money For Attorney Fees

What If I Have No Money For Attorney Fees?

Divorcing spouses often worry about covering the costs, especially if one spouse controls the family finances. In Colorado, the problem is acknowledged by courts and there are distinct procedures to deal with the inequality of fortunes between intended couples.

This has been made through the case of in Re-Marriage of Rose where the Colorado Court of Appeals stated that trial courts can grant “prospective” attorney fees under C. R. S. § 14–10–119. This means a court can order the spouse who is wealthier to provide for the other spouse to compensate them, hire an attorney and experts. These requests are referred to as “Rose motions.”

If you do not have money with which to hire a divorce attorney and your spouse has such a sum, you may ask your attorney to file a Rose motion and obtain the money you need. This is to make sure that each party is equally tackled during the process of divorce.

The court rule was found at Michigan Court Rule 3.206(D) In which the court ordered the other party to pay all or part of the attorney fees and expenses related to a divorce at any time.

(1) A party may, at any time, request that the court order the other party to pay all or part of the attorney fees and expenses related to the action or a specific proceeding, including a post-judgment proceeding.

(2) A party who requests attorney fees and expenses must allege facts sufficient to show that

(a) the party is unable to bear the expense of the action, including the expense of engaging in discovery appropriate for the matter, and that the other party is able to pay, or

(b) the attorney fees and expenses were incurred because the other party refused to comply with a previous court order, despite having the ability to comply, or engaged in discovery practices in violation of these rules.

MCR 3.206(D)


It is important for any person going for a divorce to know the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer as well as some possible things that may make a difference in the costs. The costs can be different and depend on the extent of legal activities, property valuations, and the level of sharing between the spouses. How much one is charged depends on the lawyer’s rates per hour or on a fixed rate basis, however, charges such as filing fees, child custody assessment, forensic investigation can be a bit steep. Who Pays Attorney Fees in Divorce? Is depend on how the court see you, your assets and complexity of case. One can ask for the other spouse to pay for your case. 


What happens if one spouse can’t afford to pay an attorney during the divorce process?

During the divorce process, if one spouse cannot afford to pay an attorney, he or she can request temporary fees by filing a Motion for Interim Attorney Fees. The judge will then review the attorney’s fees that have been accrued thus far and the resources of each spouse. The judge will then make a decision whether one spouse should pay the other’s lawyer’s fees during the ongoing divorce process.

Who should file for divorce first?

There can be some advantages to being the spouse that files for divorce first. If you decide the marriage has broken down or you suspect your spouse to file for divorce, contacting an experienced divorce attorney can help you decide when is the best time to file for divorce.

How do I ask my spouse to pay for my divorce attorney fees in Texas?

If you don’t ask, you can’t receive. In your original petition for divorce, you must ask the judge to order your spouse to pay for your divorce attorney fees in Texas. It’s important to make sure that your lawyer includes this request in your petition.

How does the judge decide who pays divorce attorney fees in Texas?

In Texas, a community property state, all liabilities and assets including attorney fees will be divided equally based on the “just and right” principle. In determining who pays divorce attorney fees, the court looks at the financial situation of the couple or individuals.

I am Sher A, the person behind this idea. With education in Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree from the University of Karachi, Pakistan,, like 5 years of experience as a lawyer.

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