Who Pays Attorney’s Fees in a Texas Divorce?

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on August 24, 2022

A divorce is not only physically and emotionally exhausting but also expensive. High-asset divorces and highly contested divorces can leave both spouses with hefty legal bills. Further, if your spouse is actively attempting to drag out your divorce, there is probably very little that you can do about it—and it will almost certainly increase your divorce-related legal fees.

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.

While many people believe the party who files for divorce should be responsible for both spouses’ legal fees, the court does not see it this way. Anyone has the right to file for divorce in the State of Texas, and the court will not penalize anyone for doing so. Being awarded payment of your legal fees is by no means automatic, but that does not mean that it is not a possibility.

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 property among divorcing spouses.

In Texas, any property acquired and any debt accrued by either spouse during the marriage is considered community property and is subject to fair and reasonable division (although there are a few exceptions to the general rule). In many cases, this means that the spouses’ community property is subject to a division that is considered “just and right.”

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.

How Can I Request Interim Attorney’s Fees in a Texas Divorce?

If you cannot afford to pay attorney fees while your divorce is pending, you can request interim attorney’s fees in your divorce. The judge will carefully consider each of your resources and will make a determination based on your financial need and your spouse’s ability to pay.

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 situations and determine the amount of attorney’s fees in their divorce case. Based on the findings, the judge will determine whether or not one spouse should pay the other spouse’s attorney fees.

Often the court will order payment of a specific sum or will require a spouse to pay a dollar-for-dollar amount.

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 the following situations:

Disparity of Income

Disparity of income is the main reason requests for interim attorney’s fees are granted. If one spouse’s ability to earn is far greater than the other spouse’s ability to earn, a judge may order the higher-earning spouse to pay their spouse’s attorney fees and other legal costs related to the divorce.

No Job or Income

When one of the spouses does not work or has no income (e.g., a stay-at-home parent), a court may find that it would be fair if the other spouse who has a job or income paid for their spouse’s attorney fees. If you were a stay-at-home parent throughout your marriage and have no means of supporting yourself financially, you have a good case for requesting interim attorney’s fees.

Marital Assets and Debts

Requesting attorney’s fees can be built into the division of marital property. You can give your spouse a portion of your assets in exchange for their payment of your attorney’s fees. The court can also ask couples to sell a portion of their marital assets to pay for legal fees related to divorce.

Complicated Divorce

Complicated divorce issues always drive up divorce costs. If you have hefty legal costs that you cannot afford, you are more likely to be eligible for interim attorney fees.

Bad Faith

Courts may attribute a spouse’s bad faith conduct to their 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. Some examples of a spouse’s bad behavior during divorce include the following behaviors:

  • 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.

The circumstances of every divorce are unique to the exact situation, and your judge will take your unique circumstances into careful consideration. If you think that you will not be able to afford attorney’s fees, consider speaking with an experienced Fort Hood divorce attorney to discuss how you can get your spouse to pay your attorney and cover your other legal fees.

How Are Final Attorney Fees Handled?

When your divorce is finalized, your marital assets and debts will be divided between the two of you. Both of your legal fees—expenses you accrued during your marriage—are considered marital debt and will be included in the calculation. In some cases, a judge may decide that it is more appropriate to sell community assets to pay attorney’s 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 for moving forward with your divorce. Our lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations so that you can 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) 781-4222 or filling out our online contact form.

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