A question Georgia divorce attorneys are often asked is “Who pays for the divorce?” Generally, each party pays for their own attorney’s fees. However, there are safeguards in place to protect a spouse who has no access to marital assets from the spouse who is using these assets at his/her disposal. Georgia law specifically states that the grant of attorney’s fees shall be within the sound discretion of the trial court so long as the court considers the financial circumstances of both parties a part of its determination. OCGA §19-6-2(a)(1). The fees can be awarded in full, at the end of the divorce proceeding, or on account, which means the spouse ordered to pay the other’s fees must pay them as they become due. OCGA §19-6-2(a)(2). Attorney’s fees may be awarded at a temporary hearing, a final hearing, or both, if the financial circumstances warrant the awards. OCGA §19-6-2(b). Just as any other order, an award of attorney’s fees can be enforced by an action for contempt.
Consider a couple that is going through a divorce, and all the marital accounts are in the husband’s name. The wife cannot make any withdrawals from the marital accounts, or even sign checks,because her name is not on the accounts. Thus, she is likely unable to pay a retainer or to keep up with monthly attorney bills. In this situation, we would highly recommend that the wife make a motion for attorney’s fees, so that she may utilize the martial accounts and defend herself equitably in the divorce action.