A divorce is not only physically and emotionally exhausting and overwhelming but also expensive. Most spouses can greatly benefit from being represented by a skilled attorney to help them obtain a favorable outcome.
However, hiring an attorney to represent you during divorce proceedings in Texas is not cheap, which is why it is perfectly normal to wonder, “Who pays attorney’s fees in a Texas divorce?”
The short answer is that in some cases, each party pays their own attorney. In other cases, one spouse may be ordered to pay attorney’s fees for their soon-to-be-former spouse.
Consult with a Fort Hood divorce lawyer to determine who will pay attorney’s fees in your specific case.
Attorney’s Fees and Community Property
In order to determine who pays attorney’s fees in a Texas divorce, you need to understand how state law divides community (marital) property among divorcing spouses.
In Texas, any property acquired any debt accrued by either spouse and during the marriage is considered community property and is subject to fair and reasonable division (there a few exceptions to the general rule). In many cases, it means that the spouses’ community property is subject to a 50/50 split.
Since you are considered married until after your marriage has been finalized, attorney’s fees related to your divorce case will be considered community property, too.
In some cases, a judge may decide that it is more appropriate to sell community assets to pay attorney’s fees.
Who Should Pay Attorney’s Fees in a Divorce?
When it comes to deciding who should attorney’s fees in divorce proceedings, a judge will consider:
each spouse’s financial situation;
the divorcing couple’s community property that is subject to a division; and
each spouse’s behavior during the divorce case.
If one of the spouses earns considerably more than their spouse, a judge may order the higher-earning spouse to pay their spouse’s attorney fees and other legal costs related to the divorce.
A judge may also order one spouse to pay their spouse’s attorney and legal fees as a punishment for their failure to comply with a court order. It means that a spouse who acts in bad faith may be ordered to pay for their spouse’s attorney even if the spouse seeking an award of attorney fees can afford to pay them.
Courts may attribute the spouse’s bad faith conduct to the other spouse’s expenses and attorney’s fees, especially if the spouse is engaging in dishonest, unfair, or fraudulent practices in order to drive up the costs of the divorce for their spouse. (10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Divorce in Texas) Some examples of a spouse’s bad behavior during divorce include:
Refusal to respond to motions and other documents in a timely manner;
Refusal to comply with court orders; and
Dissipation and hiding of community assets.
Do not hesitate to contact an experienced divorce attorney if you suspect that your spouse is acting in bad faith.
Requesting Interim Attorney’s Fees in a Texas Divorce
You can request interim attorney’s fees in your divorce. A judge will either grant or reject your request. A judge is likely to more likely to grant the request if:
your spouse each much more than you do;
your spouse is represented by a lawyer; and
your divorce involves complicated issues.
In order to make the request, you need to file a Motion for Interim Attorney’s Fees. Once the motion is filed, the judge will have to analyze the spouses’ financial situation and determine the amount of attorney’s fees in their divorce case. Based on their findings, the judge will determine whether or not one spouse should pay the other spouse’s attorney fees.
What Factors Do Courts Consider When Ordering Attorney’s Fees in a Divorce?
As mentioned earlier, Texas is a community property state in divorce proceedings. Attorney fees are one of the many expenses and debts considered by the court when dividing property between the spouses.
Often, in order to get the other spouse to pay for attorney’s fees, the lower-earning spouse must convince the court that doing so would be fair and reasonable. Texas Family Code § 6.502 specifically states that the court may order payment of attorney’s fees and other legal expenses at a temporary order hearing.
When requesting interim attorney’s fees at a temporary order hearing in Texas, you need to establish one of the grounds to get your request approved by the judge. Some of the factors that Texas courts consider before ordering one spouse to pay for the other spouse’s attorney fees include:
Disparity of income. In most cases where a court orders one spouse to pay attorney’s fees for their spouse, disparity of income is the main reason requests for interim attorney’s fees are granted.
No job/income. When one of the spouses does not work has no income (e.g., a stay-at-home mom), a court may find that it would be fair if the other spouse who has a job/income paid for their spouse’s attorney fees.
Bad faith. If your spouse is acting in bad faith during divorce proceedings (e.g., stalling the divorce process), a court is more likely to order them to pay your legal fees and attorney for their cost of representation.
If you think that you will not be able to afford attorney’s fees, consider speaking with an experienced attorney to discuss how you can get your spouse to pay your attorney and cover your other legal fees.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Fort Hood Divorce Lawyer
You can get a free consultation with our skilled and dedicated attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to understand your options. Our lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations so that you have an opportunity to consider all of the options that are available to you.
If you cannot afford to pay your divorce attorney, we can help you take the necessary steps to convince the court to award attorney’s fees. Our experienced attorneys can help you handle your divorce case and all divorce-related expenses. Get a free case review by calling 254-501-4040.