This issue is more common than you think. There are divorce cases in which one of the spouses has the money to be represented by a divorce lawyer, while the other spouse is unable to pay the initial retainer for his or her attorney.
Clearly, under such circumstances, the spouse represented by a Salt Lake City divorce attorney will most likely prevail in his or her divorce case even if it means that the divorce decree, child custody arrangement and/or child support order will be unfair to the other spouse.
Attorney fees in Utah are not exactly cheap and affordable, which is why even having a job does not necessarily mean that you will be able to afford a divorce lawyer. Many people do not have money for the retainer in a divorce, while their spouse, technically, has enough money to hire multiple lawyers at the same time (though being represented by multiple attorneys does not guarantee legal success in a divorce case, and it’s hardly convenient or cheap).
You can make your spouse pay for your attorney fees
But what many people in Utah do not realize is that you can actually make your spouse pay for your own attorney fees, among other fees related to your divorce proceedings, as long as you can prove that you do not have the ability to afford those, while your spouse does.
Under Utah Code § 30-3-3, a court may order one of the spouses to pay the filing fee, attorney fees, witnesses fees, expert witness fees, and other costs incurred by the other spouse in the divorce proceeding to enable him or her to prosecute or defend the action. Such a legal option is available in any action filed to get divorced, establish separate maintenance, child custody, parent-time, alimony, division of property or sue for domestic abuse.
When attorney fees are awardable in Utah
Attorney fees are awardable only when authorized by statute or by contract. Typically, you will have to prove that you cannot afford attorney fees for an experienced divorce attorney in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah, and that awarding attorney fees in your divorce case would enable you to prosecute or defend the action.
The court’s decision of whether to award attorney fees or not will be based on evidence of the receiving spouse’s inability to afford a divorce lawyer, and the payor spouse’s financial ability to pay for his or her spouse’s divorce attorney. The reasonableness of the requested fees will also be taken into account.
If you are the spouse requesting an award of attorney fees or any other court-related fees in a divorce, you have the burden of providing the required evidence. Still, the final determination of whether to award attorney fees or not is left to the sound discretion of the district court.
What Utah courts consider when determining whether to award attorney fees or not
Courts in Utah look at a wide range of factors when it comes to determining the financial needs of the spouse requesting the attorney fees award. While it is mainly the requesting spouse’s income that is taken into account, courts also consider alimony received in the divorce decree, if any, as well as the property received as a result of property division in the divorce.
When awarding attorney fees, the court will also consider the number of hours the Salt Lake City divorce attorney billed to his or her client, the difficulty of the litigation, the efficiency of the attorney in representing his or her client, the reasonableness of the attorney fees for the services charged, and other factors. Get a legal consultation from our lawyer Emy A. Cordano by calling at (801) 901-8159.