The cost of hiring an attorney is very expensive. Your current situation may not even be your fault. Will the other side have to help you with your fees? Will you get stuck having to pay the other side’s fees? It depends. Sometimes, the court will order one side to pay a portion of the attorney fees incurred by the other party. Attorney fees are awarded for various reasons in a family law case. The most common reason is for financial need. If one party earns more than the other, the court may order that party to pay a portion of the other’s attorney fees and costs. However, the family law court will almost never order one spouse to pay all of the other party’s fees; only a portion.
The family law court will sometimes order lawyer fees to be paid when one party refuses to comply with a court order. If one party has to file court papers because one party refuses to comply with the divorce or paternity judgment, the non-complying party will usually be ordered to pay all or part of the other party’s lawyer fees.
Finally, lawyer fees can be awarded as a penalty when one party does not act in good faith. This type of attorney fee award is called a “sanction.” It requires outrageous behavior by one party against the other. The family law court has discretion over the amount of attorney fees it can order, although it must be fair and reasonable.
It is best to count on paying all of your own attorney fees and costs. If the court does make an attorney fee award, it will generally not cover all of the attorney fees incurred. Additionally, even if attorney fees are ordered, they still must be collected. Often times, attorney fees are difficult to collect and the party is stuck paying the whole bill anyway. This is why most attorneys will require their retainers up front.