Can a Woman Make Her Husband Pay for Her Divorce?

By River Braun, J.D.

Can a Woman Make Her Husband Pay for Her Divorce?

By River Braun, J.D.

As a general rule, a wife cannot force her husband to pay for their divorce. Each party in the divorce action pays for his or her attorney fees and costs. However, there are circumstances in which a judge may order a husband to pay the wife's attorney fees and costs. The reasons vary by state, but most states require the wife to file a motion and prove there is a good cause for requesting that her husband pays for the divorce.

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Complications and Income Disparities

In some cases, a husband may unnecessarily complicate a divorce action, thereby requiring the wife to incur additional attorney fees. For example, the husband purposefully undervalues assets or hides income to impact property division and spousal support. A judge may award the wife attorney fees because she incurred additional costs that would not have been necessary had the husband not engaged in bad faith and wrongdoing.

Income disparities are another factor a judge may take into account when considering a wife's motion for payment of attorney's fees and costs. For example, if a wife has little to no income or assets or if she stayed at home to raise a family while her husband worked, she likely does not have the money to hire an attorney. A judge may order her husband to pay her attorney fees so that she is guaranteed sound legal representation during the divorce process.

Access to Property

In every divorce, your marital assets—the property that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage—are distributed as equally as possible. Because of this, the judge can order that the husband pay the wife's attorney fees as an advance on the amount of property she will receive in an equitable distribution of assets. When considering a motion to request payment of attorneys fees, a judge may consider the totality of a wife's income vs. assets and expenses, the complexity of the case, and the attorney's fees already incurred.

In most cases, if a wife has access to property or income, a judge is not likely to order the husband to pay for her attorney fees. If a wife has the ability to pay an attorney for advice, a judge typically leaves that financial obligation to her and does not place it on the husband unless there are other factors to influence that decision, such as a gross disparity in assets or whether the husband has been hiding assets or otherwise unnecessarily prolonging the process.

Also, the court does not award the payment of attorney fees and costs in a divorce action entirely on gender. If a wife earns more income than her husband, has access to greater assets, or unnecessarily complicates the divorce action, a judge could order that the wife pay the husband's costs for the divorce.

A divorce proceeding can be expensive, especially if the parties do not agree on issues such as child support, alimony, custody, and property division. Each divorce action is unique, and divorce laws vary by state. A judge considers a motion for attorney fees and costs based on the facts in the case and the state's specific divorce laws.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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