Strategic Lawyering

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Paying for Fees & Costs

in Divorce

I don't have the funds to pay an attorney for my divorce. Will an attorney take it on a contingency basis?

The general answer to this question is no. The laws in Califonia favor an equal playing field in a divorce and will not allow a party who lacks the ability to pay to go without funds to pay their attorney if there are assets in the divorce or if the other party has income from which the fees could be paid. Because of this policy there is seldom a need for contingency fees.


In addition, some issues in a divorce, such as an award of child support, have a puiblic policy against contingency fees. Child Support is intended to be for the benefit of the children. The court will not allow an attorney to take a percentage of the award as his fee.


That said, there are situations where a contingency fee is both warranted and allowed. For example, perhaps there is an issue as to whether a large asset is community or separate, and neither party has the financial ability to litigate the matter. The client and attorney might well agree that a contingent fee is needed under these circumstances.



Will my spouse have to pay for my attorneys fees if he/she earns more money than I do?

As discussed in the answer to contingency fees, above, the law does favor this outcome.The court will, in appropriate circumstances, order the spouse with the greater ability to pay the other party's fees, either partially or in full. The court can also order the liquidation of property to pay for fees and for a lien to be placed on property, such as the family home, to allow for a delayed payment of attorney's fees.


My spouse is harrassing me and dragging our divorce out needlessly. This has caused my costs to be very expensive. Can anything be done about this?

The answer to this question will be online soon.


I have a custody issue, not a divorce. My children's other parent and I were never married. Do I have a right to attorney's fees from the children's other parent?

The answer to this question iwill be online soon.


What is a retainer and will I have to pay one?

The answer to this question will be online soon.