Like all major decisions in life, going through a divorce requires a bit of planning. One of the factors many people need to plan for is how to pay for their legal fees.
Option #1: SAVING UP TO PAY FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES
This is where the financial planning for the divorce takes place. Like any good financial planner would tell you, plan for the future! So if you are considering ending your marriage, you should create a “legal fees fund” just in case. Obviously, saving to pay for a divorce is not always a viable option for everyone, especially those who have no disposable income; those who are unemployed; those who choose to be a stay-at-home parent; or if you are facing a situation where you don’t have the luxury of time and you need to take immediate action to separate yourself from your spouse.
OPTION #2: SELLING ASSETS TO PAY FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES
You need to be careful when you are contemplating selling your assets to pay for attorney’s fees. There are many factors you need to consider. These include whether the assets are separate or marital property, and whether the assets are sold pre-divorce or post-divorce.
Separate property is any property acquired prior to the marriage. Marital property is any property acquired during the marriage, even if it is titled in one spouse’s name only. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. Technically, prior to filing for divorce, you can dispose of a marital property that is titled in your name only without the other spouse’s permission, but you must account for that asset during your divorce.
In addition to figuring out whether the assets you are attempting to sell are separate or marital property, another factor you need to consider is timing. After a divorce has been filed, most Georgia courts issue what is called a “Standing Order” or “Mutual Restraining Order” that prohibits either party from selling or otherwise disposing of any assets belonging to the parties until the divorce is finalized or unless the court gives them permission. Therefore, if you are planning to sell any assets to pay for your attorney’s fees, you best do so before the divorce is filed.
OPTION #3: ASKING YOUR SPOUSE TO PAY FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES
Another way you can pay for attorney’s fees is asking your ex-spouse in your divorce litigation to pay for your attorney’s fees. Let’s say you managed to pay for your attorney’s initial retainer to get the divorce case going, but you do not have enough funds to sustain the divorce litigation. Your attorney can ask the court to award you some interim (temporary) attorney’s fees from your spouse. Attorney’s fees are often awarded during divorce litigation so that the parties can be represented adequately. The court will look at the financial resources of each party to determine whether attorney’s fees should be awarded. However, the decision to award or not to award attorney’s fees is solely within the court’s discretion. Therefore, it may not be a sure thing, and you should always have a back-up plan in case the court decides not to award you any attorney’s fees.