Could a court order my spouse to pay my legal fees for a divorce?

A divorce is often an expensive process. If you are the spouse with less money, you likely feel overwhelmed by the expense associated with moving, maintaining separate homes, finding childcare and the like. Adding the cost of a divorce attorney into the mix may seem impossible.

North Carolina law recognizes that unequal financial positions may place one spouse at a significant disadvantage in divorce litigation. There are two common circumstances in which a judge may order your former spouse to pay your reasonable legal fees.

Your financial situation

A court may award you legal fees based upon your financial situation relative to the other spouse. To qualify, you must show that you:

  • Are a dependent spouse, meaning you substantially depended upon your former spouse for support;
  • Do not have the means to pay your legal fees; and
  • Qualify for alimony or other post-divorce spousal support.

Your former spouse’s behavior

Regardless of financial standing, a judge may also order your former spouse to pay your legal fees if he or she engaged in actions that unnecessarily increased your fees. For example, if your former spouse filed frivolous motions, disobeyed court orders or refused to provide necessary documents, the court may require him or her to pay any legal fees you incurred as a result.

For many people, divorce and custody proceedings involve some of the most important decisions they ever make. The terms of your divorce decree may likely affect you for the rest of your life: Do not allow the prospect of legal fees to stop you from pursuing your rights.