Can the Judge Order My Spouse Pay My Attorney Fees?

Can the Judge Order My Spouse Pay My Attorney Fees?



Seeking Compensation


The costs of divorce litigation can be staggering, and much of the expenses typically come from attorney fees. Attorneys often require a retainer and charge by the hour. In a contested divorce case, these fees quickly add up. Not surprisingly, in many contentious divorces and other family law cases, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to want—or demand—the other spouse to pay his or her attorney fees.

Attorney fees may be awarded in cases when one spouse has a lower income than the other spouse or when one spouse incurs legal fees as a direct result of the actions of the other spouse. In either case, the court, at its discretion, may order one spouse to pay some or all of the other spouse’s attorney fees. If you want your spouse to pay your attorney fees, here are a few things you need to know:

The judge may require one spouse pay the other spouse’s attorney fees, also referred to as counsel fees or legal fees, if there is a significant disparity in the spouses’ incomes. If one spouse is unable to afford an attorney, the judge may order the higher income spouse pay all or part of the other spouse’s attorney fees.

The judge may also order attorney fees if one spouse acts in bad faith during court proceedings, thereby causing the other party to incur attorney fees. For example, if one spouse made false allegations against the other spouse who then had to defend him or herself in court, the judge may order the spouse who acted in bad faith pay the attorney fees of the other spouse. Likewise, if one spouse behaved in a way that led to unnecessarily lengthy legal proceedings, he or she may be on the hook to pay the attorney fees of the other spouse

The judge will consider a few factors when deciding how much attorney fees to award to one spouse, including but not limited to:

  • Each spouse’s financial situation
  • Each spouse’s ability to pay for attorney fees
  • The extent of the fees previously incurred
  • Whether each spouse is being reasonable and acted in good faith during the litigation

Attorney fees can be awarded either during divorce proceedings, known as pendente lite, or at the final judgment.

Speak with an experienced New Jersey matrimonial attorney if you have questions about attorney fees. The costs of a contested divorce can vary greatly, but having skilled legal counsel is instrumental to achieving a fair and just outcome. A knowledgeable attorney can explain what a judge may consider in your case when deciding whether or not to award attorney fees and help you request those fees in court.


Have you been served with divorce papers? If so, the Williams Law Group, LLC is here to help. Our skilled attorneys can defend your rights and make sure your best interests are protected. Located in Union, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.


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