The ability to pay attorney fees is a common concern for those about to go through a divorce. For example, if you are a spouse who gave up a career to raise your children, or don’t have access to the marital financial accounts, there are ways to retain an attorney. While the fees can feel daunting, if you have children or assets, it’s important to hire an attorney to make sure your rights are protected. Almost all attorneys will require an initial retainer payment, but there are some options for obtaining that payment and for financing your case going forward. Here are some suggestions on managing attorney fees if you haven’t worked in years or do not have access to financial accounts.
1-Temporary attorney fees award. Ask your attorney about the option of filing a Motion for Temporary Attorney fees. If your spouse is employed and/or has access to funds that could cover your fees, the court can order your spouse to pay your attorney.
2-Financing options. Look into opening a credit card for your initial retainer payment. Even if you are not employed, if you have an adequate household income and good credit, you may qualify for a card.
3-Loans from family and friends. While it might feel uncomfortable to ask for a personal loan, it is extremely common for divorcing individuals to get help from family members or friends. If there are marital assets that just cannot be accessed right away, these loans can be paid back after assets are divided in the divorce.
4-Filing an attorney’s lien. If there are marital assets, your attorney might be willing to continue working on your case after filing an attorney’s lien against marital property. While attorneys typically require payment when the work is being done, sometimes an attorney will make an exception and be willing to be paid later in the case after filing a lien to ensure payment.
5-Seek help from Georgia Legal Aid. If you don’t have access to assets of any kind, you can seek out help from Georgia Legal Aid at their website: www.GeorgiaLegalAid.org. It may take a little more digging, but many people find assistance and information for their legal questions. For information about how to navigate GeorgiaLegalAid.org or if you have technical problems with using the site, contact Susan Reif at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reference Statutes: OCGA § 19–6–2 authorizes the trial court in a divorce action to exercise sound discretion and, after considering the financial circumstances of both parties, to award attorney fees to ensure that both parties are represented equally and effectively.
Jeanette Soltys formerly worked with the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) in abuse and neglect cases, giving her extensive courtroom experience in litigating complex child custody matters. She has practiced for over a decade focusing on family law cases throughout metro-Atlanta. Her work has been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Jeanette teaches Continuing Legal Education webinars for the Atlanta Bar Association and the National Business Institute. She has earned two CALI Awards for Academic Excellence and received a 10 out of 10 rating on AVVO as one of the best divorce attorneys in Atlanta.