California Divorce Courts Can Level The Playing Field
Your financial future may depend on whether you obtain a fair divorce settlement. But, if you cannot afford to pay for an attorney with the same level of knowledge and experience as your spouse’s lawyer, the deck may be stacked against you. To reduce the risk of such inequities, the California Family Code gives judges a great deal of discretion in determining who’s responsible for paying the legal costs.
When the courts may assign your legal costs to your spouse
The most common situations in which California Family Code allows a judge to assign one divorcing spouse’s legal expenses to the other spouse are:
- Financial disparity: When one spouse cannot afford the same level of legal assistance as the other, the judge can order the more affluent spouse to pay some or all of the less affluent spouse’s legal expenses.
- Sanctions: In a highly contentious divorce, the judge can require a spouse whose conduct is thwarting settlement of the issues to pay some or all of the other spouse’s legal fees. The threat of such sanctions is intended to encourage cooperation and reduce the cost of litigation.
The possible methods of payment
The discretion of the judge extends to the method of payment. In the case of financial disparity, the court is most likely to require payment to go directly to the attorney for the other party. But, if the court orders payment as sanctions, it may consider other options, such as an alimony award or the distribution of non-marital property to the non-sanctioned spouse.
A comprehensive initial consultation with a divorce attorney can help ease your concerns. At the law firm of Lisa M. Dugoni, APC, we fight to protect your best interests and address all your financial concerns.