Family law cases can be stressful and expensive, especially when the parties have high conflict. Depending on the circumstances, one party may feel less to blame for the dispute and that it’s unfair that they have to pay legal fees. If you are in this situation, you may be wondering: Will my ex ever be ordered to pay my attorney’s fees in my Wisconsin family law case?
Family law cases often begin under contentious circumstances. With a divorce, one party may be shocked when they are served with papers or feel that their ex’s conduct left them no choice but to leave the marriage. When a parent decides to file regarding child support, custody, or physical placement, it’s usually because they disagree on a major issue with the other parent or because something significant has occurred. Likewise, paternity cases can also involve inner-party conflict. In any of these situations, it’s crucial that you work with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney and file timely and appropriate pleadings.
Can My Ex Be Ordered to Pay My Attorney’s Fees?
When both sides have the financial resources to hire counsel, they are usually going to be responsible for their own attorney’s fees. This is true even if one spouse doesn’t want the divorce or feels that the other is solely responsible for the court case. Further, generally speaking, the court will not usually order the contribution of fees just because one party’s legal fees are higher than the other.
Although parties to divorce, paternity, or custody and placement disputes are usually responsible for paying their own legal fees, there can be situations when a court will order that one party pay the other for these expenses. Under Wisconsin law, the court can consider each party’s financial resources and access to funds. If the court determines that one person has significantly lower funds than the other or unequal access to community resources, it may “[o]rder either party to pay a reasonable amount for the cost to the other party of maintaining or responding to an action affecting the family and for attorney fees to either party.”
The court can also order one party to contribute to the other party’s expenses when that party has behaved in such an outrageous manner that it has required excessive court appearances and additional attorney’s fees. Family law cases can be emotional, and it’s not always clear when a party is zealously pursuing their case or being unreasonable. For that reason, it also varies from case to case as to what conduct will be considered so outlandish as to have required excessive and unnecessary litigation.
The best way to determine your options regarding attorney fees is to consult with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney. Your attorney can explain how attorney’s fees factor into family law cases and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions throughout the process.
Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained Wisconsin attorney, Collaborative Attorney, and Mediator. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after Wisconsin divorce cases. She can help you understand your options and find the right resources. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your situation.