When and Why Would One Spouse Have to Pay for the Other Spouse’s Lawyer in a Divorce Case?

According to New Jersey Law, and under specific circumstances, the court will allow the award of attorney fees in divorce and other family law-related issues.

Spousal Responsibilities Paying for Attorney Fees in Divorce in New JerseyDivorce in New Jersey is a complex matter, both emotionally and financially. Depending on how well divorcing spouses get along, the legal dissolution of the marriage could be a relatively quick and easy affair, or it could amount to hours of litigation and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. If you consider getting a divorce, it is important that you be realistic about the kind of dent it will place in your bank account. Read on to learn more about what you can expect when paying for a lawyer to assist with your divorce and some of the reasons why one spouse can be required to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees. You want to make sure you understand if and when you can be on the hook for both lawyers in a divorce case, as well as why you may be able to make your spouse pay the bills for your representation.

Retainer Fee as a Payment Method in Divorce Cases in New Jersey

A middle-class spouse in the United States generally must draw from their own savings to cover the cost of divorce. Most divorce lawyers charge on retainer, meaning that a specific amount is paid to an attorney as a type of down payment for services. In New Jersey, a typical divorce lawyer will charge per hour, billing against the initial retainer amount based on their hourly rate. In a divorce, which varies significantly in time frame depending on the complexity of the issues, the relationship of the spouses, and the route that the case ultimately follows to reach a resolution, the costs are equally variable on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, a spouse paying for complete services from their divorce lawyer may expect to pay an initial retainer and then have to pay supplemental fees until the case is settled.

Protect your Personal Interests in a Divorce by Retaining Your Own NJ Lawyer

It is important that each spouse in the divorcing couple has the representation of their own lawyer so that they each have someone on their side representing their best interests. A divorce lawyer will prepare interrogatories to request information regarding assets and pertinent personal data from the other spouse to ensure that all marital assets are accounted for, the assets are equally distributed to the extent of New Jersey law based on circumstances of the marriage and considerations of marital contribution, and issues such as spousal support and child custody reflect the client’s financial and familial wellbeing. This type of individual focus and support is served by having a separate lawyer for each spouse, with a skilled and experienced legal team providing the best chance of assets and custodial rights protections.

What if One of the Spouses Can’t Afford Attorney Fees?

For each spouse to have fair access to legal support for a divorce, one party may be legally ordered to pay for the lawyer fees of their ex. Generally, this occurs when one partner is the breadwinner of the couple, and the other has foregone a professional career to tend the home or raise the family; or when one spouse does not have the financial stability to provide for legal counsel.

Family Law Attorneys Advising on Who Pays NJ Divorce FeesFor the Family Court to determine that one spouse must pay for the legal fees of the other in a divorce, they must consider many factors. The Court reviews each spouse’s income and their earning potential, owed debts, investments and retirement funds, and any ongoing physical or medical needs that create a financial strain.

‘Bad faith’ and Why is Relevant in a Divorce Process.

In a marriage or divorce, a person who acts in ‘bad faith’ is someone who dishonestly or recklessly uses or absconds with marital assets. For example, someone who hides marital assets in an attempt to not split them under New Jersey’s equitable distribution law would be considered by the Court to be acting in bad faith, and such an action could result in a larger asset being awarded to the other spouse. Bad faith as it regards the reckless spending of marital assets that could result in a larger share being awarded to the other spouse could include gambling that costs the couple significant funds or places them in debt.

Talk to a Family Lawyer about Handling Attorney’s Fees in Your Divorce Case

Having the guidance and assistance of a talented, highly educated family law attorney can mean that your hard-earned assets and interests are protected in the divorce process, from who pays for whose lawyer to who gets what in the end. It could also mean the difference between you obtaining legal custody of your child or receiving the spousal support you deserve after your contribution to the marriage, especially as a transition out of a legal and financial union places a strain on you.

At Montanari Law Group, we understand how important a successful divorce settlement is to your next steps. Our lawyers are here to ensure that you have the financial resources you deserve and need to move forward into the next chapter of your life.

Our firm has extensive experience helping clients in the midst of divorce and thereafter in New Jersey. We frequently offer personalized representation to spouses in Ringwood, Paterson, Wayne, Totowa, Kearny, South Orange, Nutley, and nearby towns across Northern New Jersey. Let us help you navigate the complex and often divisive divorce process, including the division of marital assets, the determination of spousal support, and your child custody arrangement.

Contact us at (973)-233-4396 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your divorce case.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.