divorce lawyer fees

RADIO: I Work, She Doesn’t: Do I Have to Pay Her Legal Fees?

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Legal fees are a huge part of divorce. Especially in contentious cases, paying for an attorney is one of the biggest expenses in the process. But what if you have to pay your ex’s attorney fees, too? It happens more often than you think.

One of our founding partners, Rick Jones, regularly appears on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show to answer family law questions from listeners. One recent caller finds himself in a situation where he may have to foot his soon-to-be ex-wife’s legal bills and wants to know what he can do.

Caller Question:

So my wife is filing for divorce and we’ve got a couple kids and some properties. I work, she doesn’t. I haven’t engaged a lawyer yet, but her lawyer is telling her that I’m going to have to pay all the legal fees. I’m curious what your thoughts on that are. Am I going to have to pay both mine and her legal fees?

Rick’s Answer

Rick: “Certainly, the issue of legal fees is up for grabs.”


Rick:Yeah. Unfortunately, in the circumstance he’s in, you fall into a little bit of a stereotype. There’s more to know though, so I’m not giving you bad news quite yet. But it’s also a very similar standard or standard to alimony or spousal maintenance, which is, need versus ability to pay.

And so, when there’s a significant difference of income, or, just like the two of you have been living out of your pocket already for years, the expectation is that’s likely to continue while the divorce is pending.

“Now, the key though, and this is where you need representation…think about it like the proverbial apple, there’s only one bite out of that apple. So you want to make sure somebody is watching your back, which is, you have exposure to alimony, well, is that doubling up if you’re hit with alimony and attorney fees at the same time.”

Danny:Which is possible though, yeah?”

Rick:It’s possible yeah, but again, he’s got so much exposure… he’s a poster boy for needing help.” 

Danny:If you establish that you have taken responsibility for certain things, they can kill you with that. Here’s the one I knew, Robert De Niro had a kid. Raised it until he was about 12 and it didn’t start to look like him.

“So they took a DNA test, it was never his kid. The judge said, too bad, you’ve established you’re paying for that kid. You’re going to pay for that kid until college, and then after maybe.”

Rick:What’s that phrase, no good deed goes unpunished?”

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