Divorce is rarely cheap. Although some couples can amicably divorce with little hassle, other couples require extensive litigation to resolve all their disputes. At Tad Nelson and Associates, we have seen the stress many men and women face in the divorce process. Some contested divorces can take over a year to fully resolve, and unfortunately the total cost of legal fees, expert witnesses, and discovery is quite high.
In some situations, it’s possible to ask for attorneys’ fees in your divorce, which means your spouse will have to pay some or all of your legal expenses. Our Galveston divorce lawyer explains the law below.
Community Debts & Legal Fees
Texas is a community property state. Put simply, assets and debts accrued during marriage are divided in a just and right manner in the final divorce decree. Consequently, legal fees and other costs associated with a divorce will be part of the community estate.
Still, this doesn’t mean you can automatically get your spouse to pay your legal fees. The judge overseeing your case will consider all assets and debts, as well as your financial situation. We have seen judges order that one spouse pay the other legal fees when there is a substantial disparity in income between the spouses. The spouse with greater resources might have to pay some or all of the legal fees.
When to Request Fees
A spouse can request temporary fees while the case is ongoing by filing an appropriate motion. The judge will review the motion and look at the financial resources for each spouse, including:
- Cash in the bank
- Available credit
- Retirement assets
- Ability to borrow from family
Judges also consider how much a spouse should pay, if anything. For example, the wife might need to pay a lump sum of her husband’s lawyer’s fees.
We can’t emphasize enough that you are not entitled to legal fees if you are a lower-earning spouse. The disparity might not be that great. Also, you might still be able to support yourself even though you make less money or have fewer assets.
Final Property Settlement & Attorneys’ Fees
At the end of a contested divorce, a judge will issue a final property settlement of assets and debts. The judge will also consider attorneys’ fees as community debt when making this division. You should work closely with your attorney to carefully record the full cost of the litigation.
A judge might also consider fee shifting for bad faith. For example, a spouse might have failed to make required disclosure of assets or have lied on court documents. This type of bad faith can result in sanctions. For this reason, we always emphasize the importance of honesty in the divorce process. There is no advantage to hiding information or misrepresenting facts to the court.
Call Our Family Law Attorney
Divorce represents a sizable expense for many Galveston couples. Although our firm is committed to efficient representation, some contested divorces require considerable resources. Contact Tad Nelson today to discuss how to pay for your divorce.