In the event that your spouse has sprung a divorce announcement on you, it is not uncommon to feel unprepared and overwhelmed, especially if you are unsure about how to pay attorneys fees. If you are in this unfortunate situation, it is in your best interest to give our legal team a call today. Our Bergen County divorce attorneys have the knowledge and experience required to ensure that your divorce process runs as smoothly as possible.
Can my spouse pay my divorce attorney fees?
In the event that you are the lower-earning spouse, or you are the spouse that took on the role of being a stay-at-home parent to your children, a divorce can result in a huge amount of financial stress and uncertainty. In an ideal world, spouses are able to quickly come to agreements on access to marital money and alimony, and other support.
With the majority of divorces, financial circumstances are the root of most disagreements and serious conflict. This is because there may be instances where the spouse who wants out of the marriage may “cut off” the other spouse from entry to bank accounts or freezes credit cards or refuses to pay for any living expenses. In other situations, financial abuse may have happened for years within the marriage.
The absence of financial access and/or support not only forces disadvantaged spouses to struggle to pay for basic needs but also, once the divorce process commences, retaining the services of a divorce attorney can feel completely unattainable.
There are a number of important elements to understand about New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2A: 34-23. This area of New Jersey’s Alimony Reform law summarizes the power of the courts to order one spouse to pay the other spouse’s retainer and fees for expert and legal services “when the respective financial circumstances of the parties make the award reasonable and just.”
The courts review a number of key factors to make a decision on whether to award attorneys fees and if so, how much to provide. These factors include the following:
- The finances of each spouse;
- The amount of the fees requesting to be covered;
- Reasonableness of the positions of the parties;
- Ability to pay for the fees; and
- Any previous awards of attorney fees.
For instance, if one spouse is the head doctor at a large hospital and the other spouse has stayed home to raise the couple’s special needs child and has zero outside income, it may be reasonable to the courts to have the high-earning spouse pay some or all of the at-home spouse’s attorney fees. By doing this, the courts essentially help balance both parties and prevent economic status from deciding the outcome of the issue.