Who Pays for Your Attorney in a Family Law Case
Your family law dispute has ended, but depending on who your attorney was and the fees to which you agreed, you may be left paying your attorney’s bill for months or years after the last document has been filed. While having an attorney assist you with your family law matter can help your dispute resolve more quickly and can help ensure that you do not inadvertently waive or give up important rights and interests, some individuals may find themselves crippled financially by a large attorney’s fee bill at the end of their case. Fortunately, Arizona does permit one spouse or parent to seek payment of his or her attorney’s fees from the other spouse or parent in some cases.
When the Other Spouse or Parent is Responsible for Your Fees
A decision to order one spouse or parent to pay the other’s attorney’s fees is always a decision left to the discretion of the trial court. The statute authorizing a court to make such an order allows the court to consider the facts and circumstances of each individual case and make a decision it believes is fair and just in the case. A court may consider a number of factors, including:
- The financial resources of each party to pay for their attorney’s fees.
- How “reasonable” each party’s attorney’s fees are given the nature of the case (for example, it will be challenging to get a court to order the payment of your attorney’s fees if you are of limited means but nonetheless hire the most expensive attorney in the area).
- The reasonableness of your conduct during the proceeding. In other words, if you without good reason deliberately stalled or delayed the resolution of the dispute or contested issues that did not need to be resolved through a contested hearing, a court may decide that you should be held responsible for your own attorney’s fees.
- While a court may decide not to award you attorney’s fees if you “lose” your case or have a judgment entered against you, a court can choose to do so if it feels such an award is just and proper under the circumstances and that the legal position you took and your actions in the dispute were reasonable.
When Do I Receive Attorney’s Fees if a Court Does Award Them?
In order to receive attorney’s fees in any dispute or proceeding, you must put the other party on notice that you are requesting the court enter such an order by including the request for attorney’s fees in your pleading or response. The court’s decision as to whether it will award you your attorney’s fees and the amount that will be awarded are issues that will be decided at the final hearing in your case when the merits of your case are decided. Your attorney will need to have calculated his or her fees in advance of this final hearing and be ready to submit a statement of fees to the court if asked.
The Reality of Receiving Attorney’s Fees
In an Arizona divorce or other family law proceeding, courts typically want both parties emerging from the dispute in a similar financial situation even if there is a clear “winner” and “loser” in the action. As a result, it is extremely difficult to get a court to award you your attorney’s fees in a typical divorce or custody action. In general, the other party must usually act extremely unreasonably in the action, causing you to be harassed and incur a significant amount of attorney’s fees in defending yourself and your position. If you want to find out more information about who pays for your attorney in a family law case call an experienced at Reppucci & Roeder today.