Can I make my spouse pay for my divorce attorney?

In Virginia, you do not have to hire a lawyer to obtain a divorce. However, it is always best to retain an experienced family law attorney to protect your legal rights—even if you are filing an uncontested divorce. 

You may want to make your spouse pay your attorney fees—especially if you did not cause or want the divorce. However, attorney fees are only awarded in limited circumstances in Virginia divorces.

When You Can Require Your Spouse to Pay Divorce Attorney Fees #

Judges in the commonwealth do not award attorney fees in all divorces. If a request for attorney fees is granted, it is often at the end of the case and is only a partial award.

An award of temporary attorney fees may be granted if one spouse has no ability to pay an attorney and the other spouse has significantly more financial resources. In making their decision, the judge would consider how complex the case was, the disparity in the parties’ income, and other assets that could be used to pay attorney fees.

When the grounds for divorce are based on fault, the court will be more likely to award attorney fees if one party is found to be completely or substantially to blame for the divorce. Other factors that the court will consider include:

  • Each spouse’s earning capacity
  • Financial needs of the party requesting attorney fees
  • Whether the distribution of the property and debts is equitable
  • Whether any spousal support is being awarded
  • How long the divorce took to complete
  • Whether one party was responsible for delays in the proceedings or was especially contentious
  • Amount of attorney fees requested

It can be easier to obtain an award of attorney fees in post-judgment divorce matters. Situations when they may be awarded include:

  • If the judgement of divorce provided for the award of attorney fees if one party violated the terms of the agreement, the judge would be more likely to order the payment of attorney fees.
  • If the non-custodial parent intentionally failed to pay child support, the court could order them to pay the attorney fees incurred in enforcing the child support order.
  • In an intra-state custody case, attorney fees are required to be awarded if the court finds that the parent wrongfully removed a child from the state.

Do you have questions about whether you can require your spouse to pay your attorney fees in your divorce or post-divorce proceeding? Do you need help filing for divorce? Start a live chat to schedule a free initial consultation to get answers to your questions and learn how Quest Law can assist you.