Do I have to pay for my wife’s divorce lawyer?

Many clients going through a divorce ask “does my husband have to pay for my divorce lawyer?”. Here’s how to know if a husband has to pay for his wife’s divorce lawyer.

In California, a wife cannot force her husband to pay for her divorce lawyer. However, under certain circumstances, a judge can order a husband to pay his wife’s attorney fees. Below we’ll break down ways to make your husband pay for your divorce lawyer.

How to Make Your Husband Pay for Your Divorce Lawyer

There are some situations in which a wife can make her husband pay for her divorce lawyer. A spouse’s wrongdoing or income disparity can compel a judge to award attorney fees. Getting a court order through a Request for Attorney Fees (Form Fl-319) is the only way to legally obligate your spouse to cover your attorney fees.

Seek Attorney Fees on a Need Basis

A judge can award attorney fees on a need basis, that is, if one spouse cannot afford an attorney. If there is a significant disparity between the spouses’ incomes, a judge can approve a submitted Request for Attorney Fees. The judge will assess the income and expenses of both spouses and determine if attorney fees should be awarded.

For example, Sally and Mark are getting a divorce. Sally was a housewife, while Mark makes $100,000 a year a real estate broker. Sally does not have the income or funds necessary to afford a divorce lawyer. Sally can file a Request for Attorney Fees, detailing how much her attorney will cost and the reason for her request.

Get An Advance on Equitable Distribution

Community property must be split 50/50 between spouses in a California divorce. However, one spouse may not have access to financial assets until after the divorce, making paying for an attorney financially unviable. A judge may order an advance on equitable distribution, in which a husband pays his wife’s attorney fees as an advance on the assets she will receive once the divorce is finalized.

For example, Sally and Mark have $500,000 in assets which will be divided equally once the divorce is finalized. However, Sally does not have access to these funds yet. So, a judge can order the husband to pay the wife’s attorney fees; this advance will be deducted from Sally’s equitable distribution.

Prove Bad Faith/Wrongdoing

If a husband acts in bad faith, a judge may order him to pay his wife’s attorney fees. Unnecessarily complicating a situation in pursuit of legal or financial leverage can be considered wrongdoing. Examples of bad faith in a legal divorce proceeding can include hiding assets or undervaluing assets to affect spousal support or property division.

For example, Mark fraudulently lowers his income on a financial statement, thereby making it less likely for a judge to make him pay spousal support. Sally knows that this is not Mark’s true income, and spends thousands trying to prove so. Once Sally proves Mark’s forgery and wrongdoing, a judge will likely order Mark to pay the attorney fees Sally paid to prove bad faith.

FAQs About Attorney Fee Awards

Do I have to pay for my wife’s divorce lawyer?

A husband does not have to pay for his wife’s divorce lawyer unless a court order says otherwise. In some situations, a judge may order a husband to pay his wife’s divorce attorney fees.

Can I make my husband pay for my divorce lawyer?

While husbands do not automatically pay for divorce lawyers, there are some situations in which a judge may order a higher-earning spouse to pay for the other spouse’s divorce lawyer.

When do judges award attorney fees in California divorces?

A judge may make a court order awarding attorney fees if

  • One spouse cannot afford an attorney
  • One spouse acted in bad faith
  • An advance on equitable distribution is appropriate

There are some situations in which a judge may order one spouse to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees.

Contact Us

If you’re wondering your husband has to pay for your divorce lawyer, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified divorce attorney for your unique legal matter. Your first consultation is free.