The process of obtaining a divorce can become costly quite quickly. Oftentimes a party does not have the proper financial means available to pay for an attorney. One option available is to seek an award of attorney’s fees. Once a divorce action is filed, Georgia law allows for an award of attorney’s fees to a spouse who is economically unable to pursue the case otherwise. The statute states:
“The grant of attorney’s fees as a part of the expenses of litigation, made at any time during the pendency of the litigation, whether the action is for alimony, divorce and alimony, or contempt of court arising out of either an alimony case or a divorce and alimony case, including but not limited to contempt of court orders involving property division, child custody, and child visitation rights, shall be: (1) Within the sound discretion of the court, except that the court shall consider the financial circumstances of both parties as a part of its determination of the amount of attorney’s fees, if any, to be allowed against either party;…”
This law allows courts to award attorney’s fees to a spouse, either male or female, who would be unable to vindicate his or her interests during the divorce proceedings without such an award. As can be inferred, the purpose of this statute “is to ensure effective representation of both spouses to that all issues can be fully and fairly resolved.” However, it is important to note that this law only applies to alimony cases or divorce cases in which alimony is sought.
A motion for attorney’s fees may be made at both a temporary hearing and/or at a final hearing, but must be made before the divorce is finalized. Neither an application for attorney’s fees nor a hearing thereon may be filed or heard after a divorce verdict, so it is important to submit your motion for attorney’s fees promptly upon determining that you cannot afford to make payment. The judge may reserve judgment on such an application until after the verdict when such application is filed prior to a verdict. Also, nothing prevents a party from being awarded attorney’s fees at both of these hearings.
At the temporary or final hearing, the court will issue a judgement as to the amount awarded and whether the grant is in full or on account, which means that the spouse is ordered to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees as they become due. The award may be enforced by attachment for contempt of court or by writ of fieri facias, whether the parties later reconcile or not.
If you are contemplating a divorce, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our attorneys will explain our retainer and fee process so that you are fully aware of the costs involved. Should you require attorney’s fees to be paid by your spouse, our attorneys will submit a motion for fees and advocate for your rights.