When are Attorney Fees Awarded in a Divorce Action?

It’s no secret that hiring an attorney is expensive. Even if you are using a lawyer on a ‘limited scope’ basis to help you only with strategy or to review and revise your forms, it is still a cost that you probably didn’t plan for. So when can you request that your spouse pay your fees? Conversely, will you be on the hook to pay some or all of your ex’s lawyer costs? While there are many ways fee requests come in to play in a divorce action, we’ve limited this article to the two most widely used methods for requesting fees.

“Need Based” Fees
The issues that need to be resolved in your divorce are property and debt, child custody, child support and spousal support. Additionally, attorney fees need to be considered and resolved in a way that makes sense for you and your spouse. The Family Code allows the court to award fees in the amount that are “reasonably necessary” to properly litigate and/or negotiate a divorce. “Need based” fees can be requested at any point during your divorce. So, for example, if you have been in mediation and have been unable to come to an agreement, you or your spouse can request fees from the court to be able to hire a lawyer. To request fees during a divorce, one spouse must file a Request for Order with the court. The Court will schedule a court hearing for you and your spouse to argue your respective positions and then the judge will make a decision. If you can come to an agreement before the hearing, there is no need to attend the court date. If your spouse has filed a Request for Order, you will need to file a response or the court may not consider your objection.

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