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Temporary Counsel Fees in Divorce

Temporary Counsel Fees in Divorce

A divorce decree can facilitate an enforcement order, establish rights for both the parties, award custody and enable visitation rights, grant alimony, and distribute property between the parties. Considering the nature of divorce cases and the work involved in obtaining divorce, legal fees often differ from case to case, as well as from city to city, state to state, and law firm to law firm. Preliminary meetings with counsel usually do not involve laborious effort, and usually amount to sorting the factual details. Courts take consideration of the parties’ ability to pay counsel fees before awarding fees. Despite the diversity in statutes, courts apply general principles and carefully analyze the parties’ financial status before awarding costs.

Counsel offer varying kinds of services to the divorce client. They can include basic fees for filing the case, monthly or yearly retainers, individual case retainers, payment arrangements, flat fees for uncontested proceedings, minimum fees for specific parts of the case, expert fees, hourly fees, and out of pocket expenses. Attorneys usually may secure their fees through a lien against marital or non-marital asset of the client and also can accept assignment of clients’ wages as payment towards fees. Most law firms accept credit cards for payments.

Courts may grant interim attorney fees, while the case is pending, to the spouse who lacks control over the marital assets that will be used to pay the fees. Granting interim relief in a divorce proceeding serves to promote fairness and impartiality by enabling the dependent spouse to maintain or defend the divorce action without being placed at a financial disadvantage. The dependent spouse often can secure attorney fees for appeals as well. Temporary counsel fees often can be estimated by using “rule of thumb” or local custom.

Courts award temporary fees in divorce cases according to the nature and complexity of the case. Reasonableness in billing should be the key factor for setting temporary fee awards. The two most important factors in awarding temporary counsel fees or expert fees are the dependent spouse’s ability to maintain or defend an action properly, and the independent spouse’s ability to pay.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.