Can the court require one spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees?
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In addition to the emotional turbulence and upheaval that comes with divorce, many separating spouses worry about the cost. There are the standard court fees, of course, plus the potential price of hiring a lawyer to guide you through the process.

Generally, each spouse will need to cover their attorney’s fees and associated costs. In certain circumstances, however, the court can order one spouse to pay those costs for the other. When would that be the case? Here’s an overview.

Finances are a significant factor

Under Maryland law, a family court judge may decide one spouse is obligated to pay the other’s attorney’s fees. Those fees include “reasonable and necessary” expenses related to the divorce, such as suit money, counsel fees and other costs.

When making this decision, the judge will take into account:

  • The financial resources of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s financial needs
  • Whether there was “substantial justification” for bringing the action

A determination frequently – though not exclusively – comes down to money. If one spouse cannot afford to pay these expenses, and the other is clearly able to do so, then the judge may order a contribution to cover part or all of the costs in questions.

For example, if one spouse left their job to stay home and raise the kids while the other continued to work, that might lead to the court issuing this type of order.

What else you should know

If one party wants to seek attorney’s fees, they must request it through papers filed with the court. These fees are usually awarded at the conclusion of a case, though may be granted earlier in certain situations.

Divorce can be quite frightening in many ways. But in some circumstances, you may be able to forge ahead with a bit of certainty regarding your finances.