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When does the Judge award attorney fees in a divorce.

Los Angeles, CA |

I am getting divorced. My husband has the means to hire an attorney, which he already has and I started getting served documents I don't understand. I do not have the money to hire an attorney. I just graduated from college and am not working and have two children to support. Under what circumstances could I be granted attorney fees by my soon to be spouse?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You can get attorney's fees at many stages in a divorce. There are code sections that allow the judge to make an order at the beginning of a case. They can also be awarded at almost any time during the case and at the conclusion. Have a consultation with an attorney who can help you assess your situation and determine whether or not it would be a good idea to file a motion for fees immediately. There are family code sections that require the judge to order attorneys fees from one party to the other to "level the playing field." That means, to make it fair to both sides by allowing the lower earner or the poorer spouse to also hire an attorney. It is especially important at the beginning of the case.

    Michael is in San Jose, California and can be reached at 408-295-4232 or at schwerin@ix.netcom.com. Consultation fees, rates and retainers vary based on need and ability to pay.


  2. Attorney fees can be awarded at any time, but sometimes the judge will only do it at the end.
    We think this is unfair, but that is what they do.
    You can go into the court before hiring an attorney and ask for fees to hire an attorney.
    You should present information on the retainer being requested by the attorney you want to hire.

    Susan Jeffries, Alameda

    This is not confidential advice and I am not your attorney until we have had a confidential consultation by phone or in the office.


  3. Family Code 2030 states that attorney fees can be awarded at any time. Below is the pertinent part that would pertain to your situation:

    (a) (1) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation of the parties, and in any proceeding subsequent to entry of a related judgment, the court shall
    ensure that each party has access to legal representation, including access early in the proceedings, to preserve each party's rights by ordering, if necessary based on the income and needs assessments, one party, except a governmental entity, to pay to the other party, or
    to the other party's attorney, whatever amount is reasonably necessary for attorney's fees and for the cost of maintaining or defending the proceeding during the pendency of the proceeding.
    (2) When a request for attorney's fees and costs is made, the court shall make findings on whether an award of attorney's fees and costs under this section is appropriate, whether there is a disparity in access to funds to retain counsel, and whether one party is able
    to pay for legal representation of both parties. If the findings demonstrate disparity in access and ability to pay, the court shall make an order awarding attorney's fees and costs. A party who lacks the financial ability to hire an attorney may request, as an in pro per litigant, that the court order the other party, if that other party has the financial ability, to pay a reasonable amount to allow the unrepresented party to retain an attorney in a timely manner
    before proceedings in the matter go forward.
    (b) Attorney's fees and costs within this section may be awarded for legal services rendered or costs incurred before or after the commencement of the proceeding.

    Good luck

    Note this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on. Each situation is fact specific and court specific, and it is not possible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and court pleadings filed in the case. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship

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