A divorce can be quite costly. When you take into account everything from custody battles, uncooperative spouses, and unforeseen issues— you realize quickly that when it comes to a legal separation, it doesn’t come cheap. Therefore, you might be trying to find ways to cut costs. One question that comes up quite frequently amongst the to-be divorced, is whether or not they can calculate their attorney fees into what is paid out from the other spouse. And the answer, in short, is yes. In South Carolina divorce court, awarding attorney fees is common in a number of instances…
Awarding Attorney Fees in Divorce: Can I Make My Spouse Pay?
How Does the Court Decide to Award Fees?
There is no clear formula or precedent for awarding attorney fees to a certain spouse. Ultimately, it comes down to the discretion of the court and their analysis of four main issues, which typically result in awarding fees. In the case E.D.M. v. T.A.M., the court decided that these issues can help decide whether or not to award fees in divorce:
- Each party’s ability to pay his or her own fee
- The beneficial results obtained by the attorney
- The parties’ respective financial conditions
- The effect of the fee on each party’s standard of living
As we’ve said, the decision to award attorney’s fees is completely up to the court’s discretion. So, once they decide to award fees, that decision can only be reversed if there is a clear abuse of that discretion.
How Does the Court Decide the Amount to Award?
If the court decides to award fees, they must next decide how much to award. The amount must be based on a reasonable number of billable hours. Also, it must be based on hours billed at a reasonable hourly rate. Furthermore, the judge must detail the amount of hours the attorney spent on the case, or the amount of the attorney’s fees. Hence, the judge must consider and explain all of the factors in their decision making. In the case Glasscock v. Glasscock, the court came up with six factors for family courts to consider in determining a reasonable attorney’s fee:
- The nature, extent, and difficulty of the case
- Time necessarily devoted to the case
- The professional standing of counsel
- Contingency of compensation
- Beneficial results obtained
- Customary legal fees for similar services
Every divorce is different, and so are the deciding factors. That’s what makes your attorney such an important part of the puzzle. By sharing all the details of your case, the intended outcome, and your financial standing— they will be able to help you reach an ending point that suits both you, and your former spouse.