Unfortunately, many people are dissuaded from pursuing or even considering a divorce purely due to financial concerns. But, a significant portion of such people may actually be able to obtain a divorce if they utilize any of the following options:
1. Request That Your Spouse Must Pay Your Attorney’s Fees and Costs
In many states, there are statutes and case law which can require one spouse to not only be financially responsible for his/her own attorney’s fees and costs, but also to be responsible for his/her spouse’s attorney’s fees and costs.
For example, in California, the Family Code states that “the court shall ensure that each party has access to legal representation…by ordering…one party…to pay to the other party, or to the other party’s attorney whatever amount is reasonably necessary for attorney’s fees….” See California Family Code Section 2030.
The idea behind such a policy is to level the playing field, so to speak, in order to ensure that the spouse with superior income or assets does not gain an upper hand and to preserve the due process rights of the other party without income/assets. Another interesting component is that the fees can be “whatever amount is reasonably necessary,” meaning that the court is not capped or limited. Instead, the court can take into account the unique facts and circumstances of each case.
To obtain such an award, it is imperative that the party seeking the award provide the court with evidence that the other party has the ability to pay the fees requested. Such evidence can include bank/financial account statements, tax returns, etc.
2. Hire a Mediator and Split the Costs
Many people are in agreement – or are capable of reaching an agreement with some assistance from a professional – but do not have the income or assets necessary to obtain an award of attorney’s fees from the other spouse. However, such individuals may be able to select a mediator to help them identify and resolve all of the issues.
There are many great professional mediators who offer flexible price options, payments plans, and other programs to help couples divorce amicably without the expense of litigation. In California, mediators can even help spouses reach a “default with agreement,” which allows only one spouse to have to pay the court a filing fee (which can range up to almost $500!).
3. Request a Fee Waiver from the Court
Individuals with low-income and/or minimal assets may qualify for a fee waiver from their local family law court. Such a waiver can allow them to avoid the initial filing fee and filing fees for any subsequent motions or requests for orders from the Court.
To see if you qualify for such a waiver, visit the local court’s website and/or consult with the courthouse’s self-help center.
4. Utilize a Limited-Scope Representation with an Attorney
Many states allow attorneys to undertake what is known as a “limited-scope representation.” This will allow an attorney to limit the scope of his/her involvement in the case to specific issues rather than being the attorney record for all issues of the case. In some instances, it can even allow the scope to be limited to a specific hearing or court appearance. This limitation can reduce the financial risk for attorneys, thereby allowing them to charge a lower retainer amount or fee.
5. Look into “Divorce Financing”
The world of divorce financing is a burgeoning new industry that has caught the attention of Wall Street and the financial sector. Companies that offer this financing method will loan money to qualifying individuals to pay for their attorney’s fees, forensic accounting fees, professional fees, and even their living expenses while the divorce is pending. This can provide a divorcing individual with a very valuable financial lifeline, but should he entered into with a full understanding of the costs, terms, and conditions.
If you are considering a divorce but are concerned about your ability to pay for it, you should consult with a licensed family law attorney or the self-help center at the courthouse to learn more about the options that may be available to you.