Who Pays the Legal Fees in a Divorce?

Divorcing couple consulting with a lawyer

Clients often come to Aiello & DiFalco LLP wondering who pays the legal fees in a divorce. This is a fair question, but hiring an experienced divorce attorney is an investment in your future. When you become our client, you can trust us to provide professional legal services with your budget in mind. We are also mindful of what it takes to zealously advocate for the spouse who does not have access to the assets or income to pay all of the legal fees necessary to secure a fair result.

In short, each party in a divorce is responsible for compensating their attorney, however, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to cover the other spouse’s legal fees and costs under provisions of the New York Domestic Relations Law. This law encourages equal legal representation for both parties in a divorce and prevents the higher-earning spouse from obtaining a superior outcome solely due to financial considerations. In fact, the law contains a presumption that the more monied spouse contributes towards the other party’s legal fees.

While the court considers several factors in deciding who pays attorney’s fees, having informed legal representation is essential. Contact our office today for a consultation. We represent clients throughout Long Island and New York City

Understanding Attorneys’ Fees in a Divorce

A divorce attorney provides a wide range of legal services depending on whether a divorce is uncontested, contested, or resolved through mediation or litigation. Such services include:

  • Researching applicable statutes and relevant case law
  • Collecting evidence that supports your case
  • Preparing and filing legal papers with the court
  • Conducting discovery and locating marital assets
  • Establishing child custody and parenting agreements
  • Representing you in court hearings
  • Negotiating and preparing a settlement agreement
  • Preparing for and conducting trials

At Aiello & DiFalco, we understand the emotional and financial burdens divorce can bring and offer our clients cost-effective services and affordable payment options. While reaching negotiated settlements through mediation can minimize legal expenses, we are always prepared to litigate in family court if necessary. 

Who Normally Pays Attorneys’ Fees in Divorce?

Generally, each party is responsible for paying their attorney’s fees in a divorce, especially their retainers to their respective attorneys. Depending on the circumstances, the court may order one spouse to pay some or all of the other party’s legal fees and court costs. Factors the court considers include:

  • Each spouse’s financial situation – The court will often order the higher-earning spouse to pay at least a portion of the other party’s legal fees and costs, especially if they do not work outside the home or left a career to raise children. 
  • The parties’ conduct – The courts encourage parties to settle divorce cases when possible because settlement reduces the court’s caseload and saves the parties time and money. Therefore, a judge deciding on attorneys’ fees may favorably consider one party’s willingness to settle. On the other hand, the court often orders a spouse who unnecessarily takes issues to trial, refuses to negotiate in good faith, or engages in misconduct (e.g concealing assets) to pay the other party’s legal fees. 
  • Services provided by counsel – Each party has the right to retain a divorce attorney of their choice; however, a judge has discretion about awarding legal fees. The courts are reluctant to award legal fees when one side overly litigates a case. Ultimately, the court will award fees that are reasonable and based on the actual legal services provided. 

How Divorce Mediation Reduces Legal Fees 

One way to reduce the legal fees associated with divorce is to consider alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation. In this process, the parties hire a neutral third party, or a “mediator,” who guides them to a settlement. Notably, a mediator does not issue rulings and cannot offer legal advice. While attorneys do not usually participate directly in divorce mediation, your lawyer can advise you about the process and your rights, limiting your fees to a consultation unless they provide other services. 

Why You Need a Divorce Attorney

Navigating a divorce without an attorney can be complicated and confusing, potentially resulting in costly mistakes that adversely impact your future. By working with an experienced New York divorce attorney, you can make informed decisions about issues such as dividing the marital property, spousal maintenance (alimony), child custody, and child support.

Of course, hiring a divorce attorney is crucial if your soon-to-be-ex has an attorney, you have children, or you have a complex, high-asset divorce case. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer is the best way to protect your rights and interests, regardless of your financial circumstances. 

Contact Our Experienced New York Divorce Lawyers

Divorce can become a costly and time-consuming legal battle without proper legal representation. If you are considering divorce and have concerns about legal fees, turn to Aiello & DiFalco. You can depend on us to find innovative, cost-effective solutions that allow you to move on to the next chapter of your life. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.