Getting Attorney’s Fees In A Family Law Case
Whether you’ve come to the decision to file for divorce or it is being thrust upon you, one of the most stressful aspects of divorcing a spouse is the financial ramifications. Splitting one household into two could be harder to manage, and one spouse may still rely on the other for financial support. On top of all of this, legal costs, including attorney’s fees, can be quite expensive. Oftentimes, the petitioner will request attorney’s fees in the divorce petition, and the respondent may request them as well. This is made possible by A.R.S. § 25-324. Whether either spouse is actually ordered to pay those fees is a question we are asked often. Read on to learn more about requesting and/or paying attorney’s fees in an Arizona divorce. If you have additional questions, call our firm for your free consultation at 480-448-9800.
My Spouse Requested Attorney’s Fees. Do I Have to Pay?
Many clients call us in a panic shortly after being served with a divorce petition. Not only does their spouse want a divorce, but they want everything down to attorney’s fees. But this shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern in most cases. It is fairly standard to request attorneys’ fees in a divorce petition. The judge won’t automatically grant the request for attorney’s fees unless you fail to respond to the petition, allowing the court to proceed by default. This also means that you shouldn’t immediately begin paying your spouse’s legal fees just because they requested them in the divorce petition. This is an issue that must be sorted out before it becomes either party’s obligation.
Hiring a divorce attorney can help ensure that you stay on top of the deadlines that could wind up forcing you to pay attorney’s fees and more if missed. Call 480-448-9800 for your free consultation with one of our dedicated family law attorneys as soon as possible after being served with a divorce petition.
I Requested Attorney’s Fees In My Divorce Petition. Will I Receive Them?
Most spouses going through a divorce in Arizona shouldn’t expect their attorney’s fees to be paid but shouldn’t rule out the possibility either. Like in many legal matters, the main thing that it boils down to is whether the request for legal costs, as well as the issue being brought and the conduct involved, are reasonable.
If you are the petitioner in a divorce, there are a few factors that could influence whether your request for attorney’s fees will be successful. First of all, there is always the chance that your spouse will fail to respond to the divorce petition. This means you can request a default divorce from the court, in which the judge will usually grant everything the petitioner requested. If you requested that your spouse pay your attorney’s fees, these can be among the requests granted in a divorce by default.
It is important to note that you will not be awarded attorney’s fees if you do not ask for them. Additionally, requesting attorneys is not a guarantee you will receive them, even if your divorce ends up going the default route. There is usually no harm in asking for your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees in the divorce petition. You can discuss this decision in greater detail with a Phoenix divorce lawyer by calling 480-448-9800.
Factors That Impact Attorney’s Fees in an Arizona Divorce
The number one reason that spouses are ordered to pay attorney’s fees in a divorce is that they are being unreasonable. That raises the question of what “unreasonable” means in a family law context. Here are some examples.
- The spouses are fairly close to settling divorce issues, but one spouse refuses to continue negotiations or attend alternative dispute resolution.
- One spouse continuously requests child support or custody modifications despite there being no change in circumstances
- One spouse repeatedly fails to appear at court dates
- One spouse purposefully violates temporary or permanent orders
- One spouse is delaying and drawing out matters in a way not described above
If a family law litigant feels the need to violate orders, fail to appear at a court date, etc., they need to have a good reason for why, as well as evidence to back it up.
Whether a litigant is being unreasonable is the main factor considered when determining attorney’s fees, but it isn’t the sole factor. A spouse is much more likely to be awarded attorney’s fees if they are the successful party in whatever matter is at issue. If you bring a matter and are unsuccessful in both your request, each party will bear the cost of their own legal fees unless the initiating party was harassing, wasting court resources, etc. A party is also more likely to be successful in a request for attorney’s fees when the amount requested is reasonable. This doesn’t just speak to hourly rate- if the party asked an attorney to repeatedly draft and re-draft documents just to drive up legal costs and vex the opposing party, the court is unlikely to award legal fees.
Another reason a spouse might be ordered to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees in a divorce is that they have vastly different earning powers. For example, if one spouse stayed at home to raise the children while the other climbed the corporate ladder to a six-figure income, the court may find it necessary for the income-earning spouse to help with the stay-at-home spouse’s legal costs.
Limitations on Legal Expenses in Requests for Attorney’s Fees
Just because a spouse is ordered to pay attorney’s fees in a divorce doesn’t mean that the budget will be limitless. Most people don’t need an A-list celebrity, a high-profile divorce attorney who charges A-list celebrity rates. The attorney’s fees requested by a spouse should be reasonable keeping in mind the spouse’s income and the standard of living during the marriage. To learn more about the costs of divorce representation, as well as an affordable quote with payment plan options, call 480-448-9800 to schedule your free consultation.
Evidence for Attorney’s Fees Requests
There are certain types of documents you can expect to produce as evidence if you or your spouse requests attorney’s fees in the divorce petition. Income will be important, so tax returns, pay stubs, profit, and loss statements, and other forms of proof of income may be necessary. Expenses could also be relevant to these calculations. For example, if one spouse is living in the marital home while the other spouse has to move and is still responsible for the mortgage, there may be less need to award the spouse living in the marital home attorney’s fees. The court will also consider whether the spouse requesting attorney’s fees is doing so in good faith or bad faith. Filings and documents from previous family law matters can show if the party has a tendency for being litigious. The spouse requesting attorney’s fees should also be able to provide a bill from their attorney that fully describes the work performed.
Do These Fees Count as Alimony?
It may seem unfair for one spouse to need to give up half their assets, pay their spouse’s attorney’s fees, and pay monthly spousal support for a set amount of time after the divorce as well. However, attorney’s fees are separate from alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance. That means you could be ordered to pay either alimony or attorney’s fees, or both. The factors that make someone more likely to be ordered to pay alimony can pay into the likelihood to pay attorney’s fees too. Attorney’s fees can add up quickly, especially when you’re paying for both sides’ attorneys. Contact a family law attorney with any questions you have about requests to pay attorney’s fees in family law cases at 480-448-9800.
Your Arizona Family Law Team for Great Results with Great Prices
Attorney’s fees are just one of the nearly infinite issues that could be at stake in an Arizona divorce. Having your spouse pay this expense could be a crucial part of your divorce battle or avoiding paying them for your ex could be crucial to your future financial well-being. Representing yourself, especially if your spouse retains a divorce attorney, opens you up to the risk of being steamrolled during divorce negotiations or trials. This is the type of cost that will likely end up saving you far more money in the long term. AZ Family Law Lawyers is experienced and offers quality service with payment options designed to fit our clients’ budgets. This starts with your free consultation, which can be held by phone for your privacy and convenience. Get started by calling our office today at 480-448-9800.
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