Can I get the Court to make my spouse help me with my legal fees?

COUNSEL FEES IN FAMILY LAW MATTERS

As a Berks County Divorce Lawyer, Attorney Joseph Guillama is often asked by clients whether or not they can pursue a Court Order requiring their spouse to pay for all or a portion of their counsel fees. Furthermore, Attorney Guillama has represented clients where the other spouse is attempting to obtain a Court Order requiring his clients to pay their attorney's fees. As a Berks County Divorce Attorney, he must have a thorough understanding of how, when, and to what extent the Court will require another party to pay his client's attorney's fees and vice versa.

First, Pa.R.C.P. 1920.31 is entitled "Joinder of Related Claims. Child and Spousal Support. Alimony. Alimony Pendente Lite. Counsel Fees. Expenses" and states "Within thirty days after the service of the pleading of a Petition containing a claim for alimony or counsel fees, costs and expenses, each party shall file a true copy of their most recent Federal Income Tax Return for the preceding 6 months, a completed Income Statement and a completed Expense Statement.

Accordingly, the first thing the party must do when claiming counsel fees is to prepare and file with the Court the aforementioned documents.

Then, 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3702 is entitled "Alimony Pendente Lite, Counsel Fees and Expenses". That law states "In proper cases, upon petition, the Court may allow a spouse reasonable alimony pendente lite, spousal support and reasonable counsel fees and expenses. Reasonable counsel fees and expenses may be allowed pendente lite, and the Court shall also have the authority to direct that adequate health and hospitalization insurance coverage may be maintained for the dependent spouse, pendente lite."

It is important to understand that the aforementioned statutes discuss the Court's power to award counsel fees in the context of a divorce only. In Child Custody actions, the Court also has the authority to award one party counsel fees.

Specifically, 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5339 is entitled "Award of Counsel Fees, Costs and Expenses" and states "Under this chapter, a Court may award reasonable interim or final counsel fees, costs and expenses to a party if the Court finds that the conduct of another party was obdurate, vexatious, repetitive or in bad faith".

As a Berks County Child Custody lawyer, Attorney Guillama has represented clients in which he has made a claim that the other party's behavior throughout that child custody matter was obdurate, vexatious, repetitive and in bad faith and, as a result, requested that the Court order that party to pay his client's counsel fees.

Finally, it is important to note that the Court always has the authority to enter counsel fees against one party if it finds that party to be in violation of a Court Order. This often happens when one party is in "contempt" of a Court order.

If you have any questions whatsoever with regards to whether or not your spouse or the other parent of your child should be paying all of or a portion of your counsel fees, contact Berks County Family Law Attorney Joseph A. Guillama to discuss your options.