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If you have divorce questions

Can I be forced to pay my spouse’s attorney’s fees if I don’t make enough money?

In Georgia, attorney’s fees may be granted in a number of family law cases: alimony, divorce and alimony, or contempt of court arising out of the above cases. OCGA §19-6-2(a). While your spouse may threaten to make you pay his/her attorney’s fees in your divorce action,it is certainly not an automatic order in these family law cases.

The grant of attorney’s fees in the above-mentioned family law cases is in the court’s discretion, and the court is specifically required to “consider the financial circumstances of both parties as part of its determination of the amount of attorney’s fees, if any, to be allowed against either party.” OCGA §19-6-2(a)(1). This means that the court will look at each party’s financial situation, including income,debts, and assets, in deciding whether to award attorney’s fees. Consider a divorce situation where the husband was the sole breadwinner in the family, but wants to get back at the wife (who has no income or separate assets) for having an affair. Though the wife’s actions were certainly not appropriate for a marital relationship, she likely will not be ordered to pay his attorney’s fees because she simply cannot afford it. It is likely, however, that her adulterous conduct will be used against her in determining equitable division and alimony.

It should be noted that fees may be awarded at both the temporary hearing and the final hearing. OCGA§19-6-2(b). Often, if one spouse is the sole breadwinner in the family, the other spouse cannot afford to pay his/her attorney’s fees, but needs an attorney to represent his/her interests in the divorce case. In that situation, a Judge may award attorney’s fees at the temporary hearing so that party can continue to have an attorney represent him/her throughout the divorce process.

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Attorney's Fees
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