Divorce proceedings are often a highly emotional and complicated time, and determining who will cover the attorney fees can be an added element of stress. There is one simple way that the law in Texas tries to make this aspect as easy as possible. Texas is a community property state, meaning that all assets and debts accrued throughout the marriage are subject to division during the divorce.
This means that divorce and attorney fees are labeled as community debt, and the responsibility of paying those fees falls to both parties. Keep in mind that Texas does not recognize legal separation, so until the final divorce papers are signed, attorney fees acquired before the papers are signed are categorized as community debt. Some states will require the partner filing for the divorce to pay the larger portion of attorney fees, as a punitive measure for dissolving the marriage.
However, Texas recognizes divorce as every resident’s right, therefore there is no requirement for one partner to pay more than the other. That being said, each case can be reviewed on its own by a judge, to determine if split fees are fair for both parties. A judge will look at the financial capabilities of each spouse, as well as assess community assets and debts before granting attorney fees. If one spouse is better able to pay the fees, an agreement can be finalized during mediation or by the court’s order after a hearing.
There are some instances when a judge may order one spouse to pay all attorney fees if they are found acting in “bad faith”. Acting in bad faith means that you are not complying with court orders, such as refusing discovery requests or failing to disclose all assets or debts. If one party cannot pay legal fees, their attorney may file for something called a motion of Interim Attorney Fees.
This motion asks a judge to review the case, and the fees the individual is being asked to pay. In this instance, the judge will examine the case as a whole, in addition to each individual’s ability to pay the attorney fees. The judge may allocate the majority of the fees to the spouse better able to afford the fees. Just as in any case, a solid argument must be made in order to get the judge to rule in your favor.