Getting Your Ex-Spouse to Pay for Your Attorney Fees in a Family Law Case

Getting Your Ex-Spouse to Pay for Your Attorney Fees in a Family Law Case

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Many people think that they have to pay an attorney upfront in any type of proceeding.  That is not quite true.  While many attorneys have high rates, there are many areas of law that do not require a person to pay for the attorney’s fees upfront.  For example, person injury attorneys get paid only if you win or settle your case.  Criminal law is its own species that often requires a lump sum down payment anywhere from a thousand dollars generally for simple matters to tens of thousands of dollars for more complicated matters.  In criminal law, if you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to you for free.  Family law operates on a different level where a party may be entitled to have the spouse pay a portion of the attorney’s fees.




First, what is a retainer?  A retainer is an amount put down by a person in advance for the attorney’s services.  This money is then put in a trust account.  When an attorney does work, they can withdraw from the money in the retainer.  Depending on the attorney, you will most likely get a billing statement at the end of the month detailing the work that has been done on your case and the amount that is going to be taken out of the trust account.  At the end of your case, any amount that is left over should be returned to you.


Getting your spouse to help share the cost of YOUR attorney fees

You may be entitled to attorney fess and costs that are awarded immediately from the outset of a case upon the showing that:

(1) your respective incomes and needs of you and your spouse,

(2) there is a disparity in you and your spouse’s access to money to retain an attorney, and

(3) that your spouse is able to pay for legal representation of both parties.

Family Code section 2030(a)(2) states that If the findings demonstrate disparity in access and ability to pay, then the court shall order attorney fess and costs.


Public Policy

It is a matter of public policy to make sure that each party going through a separation (or nullity) has equal access to legal representation.  This section of the Family Code is in place to prevent a situation where the spouse who holds the “purse strings” is able to afford more and better divorce attorneys than the other spouse.  Thus, courts will generally outright deny a party’s request for attorney’s fees at the off set of a case when all of the conditions mentioned above have been met.

What does this mean? This mean that if you have family law issues, public policy favors you having an attorney to represent you in court and will make the other side pay for it


If you have family law issues and are looking to talk to an attorney, please call theLaw Offices of Lisa Wong for a free consultation.  We offer affordable hourly rates with low retainers and can help you in getting the other side to pay for your attorney fees.


Lisa Wong, Esq.

Law Offices of Lisa Wong



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