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My ex-wife wants to move out of the country with our daughter. Can she make me pay her legal fees?

Palo Alto, CA |

I have joint custody for an 11 year old from a previous marriage and my ex-wife now says she wants to move to France and take our daughter with her. My daughter was born in California and has always lived there. The divorce documentation stated that the country and state of residence for the child is US / California.
I am worried that she might hire an expensive lawyer and ask me to pay for her legal fees.
My salary is between 2 and 3 time hers, but my expense and my cost of buying a new house since the divorce are such that I am already deep in dept.
My question is: is it possible a judge would order me to pay her legal cost, if she chooses to go to court to challenge an existing agreement?

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Attorney answers 2


You will probably win the fight to keep your daughter in CA and will not have to pay her fees. You want to protect yourself from your daughter being taken out of country without your permission. See US State Department website on passports on weblink.

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.


I'll respectfully disagree with the prior answer. There is a significant chance that you might be ordered to pay some PART of your ex's legal fees, unless her request is completely unreasonable and frivolous. (Why does she want to move?)

It doesn't sound like she's trying to "challenge" the existing agreement, but to modify it; custody orders are always modifiable, if the party asking for the modification can show the court that modifying the order is in the child's best interest.

Courts are required to "level the playing field" in considering requests for fees. It's unlikely that you'd be ordered to pay ALL her fees, but certainly possible that you might be ordered to pay some of them.

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