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How to Obtain an Order from the Court to Compel a Spouse to Contribute to Attorney Fees in a Divorce?

The Court can order one spouse to pay or contribute to the payment of attorneys fees for the other spouse in a divorce if there is a need.

The law that authorizes this is Family Code Section 2030. The purpose of a § 2030 fee award is to ensure a party has sufficient resources to adequately and properly litigate the case and to implement public policy favoring “a parity between spouses in their ability to obtain legal representation.” The aim is not to “reward” the winner or “punish” the loser.

The court’s decision on a request for fees is be based upon (1) an assessment of the parties’ respective income and needs, (2) whether there is a difference in their access to funds to retain legal counsel, and (3) whether one party is able to pay for legal representation of both parties. The Court has broad discretion and can order one party to contribute to the attorney fees of the other without requiring the payor to pay all the attorney fees of their spouse.

In determining what is reasonable under the parties’ circumstances, courts must consider the need for the award to enable each party (both the applicant spouse and the payor spouse) to have sufficient financial resources to adequately present his or her case, taking into account to the extent relevant the circumstances of the parties described in Family Code § 4320 which addresses the issue of spousal support.

How can a party obtain an award of fees?

A party who needs an attorney fees contribution must file with the Court a Request for Orders (Form FL-300) describing the amount requested and the facts which support the request. Within the Request for Orders the supporting facts are set out in a declaration which is signed by the spouse seeking the order. In addition to the Request for Orders a party seeking attorneys fees must file an Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150). Here is a link to the forms you need. 

This Request for Orders can be filed at the same time as a petition for divorce or a response to a petition for divorce is filed. It can also be filed at any time later in the divorce process.

There is a fee to file the Request for Orders of $90.00 which is paid the Court.

What needs to be done after the Request for Orders is filed with the Court?

After the Request for Orders is filed, the Court clerk will return a copy of the Request for Orders to the party who filed it (or the party’s attorney if an attorney filed it for a party) with the date of the hearing filled in.

The party seeking the attorneys fees must cause the Request for Orders and the Income and Expense Declaration to be served on the party from whom the attorneys fees are sought. If the party from whom the attorneys fees are sought is already represented by an attorney, then the Request for Orders and Income and Expense Declaration are served on the attorney.

In addition to serving the Request for Orders and Income and Expense Declaration, the party seeking the attorneys fees must serve a blank Responsive Declaration to Request For Orders (Form FL-320) and a blank Income and Expense Declaration (Form Fl-150).

Once the party has been served with the Request for Orders and the Income and Expense Declaration, the party seeking the order of attorneys fees files the Proof of Service  (Form FL-330 or FL-335) with the Court where the initial Request for Orders and Income and Expense Declaration was filed.

What Happens Next?

The parties must attend the hearing on the request for fees and the judge will make an order.  Alternatively, the parties can discuss the issue and if they agree between themselves how much will be paid, they can submit an agreed upon order to the Court for the Court’s approval. It can be a little tricky to submit an order to which the parties agree if neither party is represented by counsel. If neither party is represented,  it’s easier for both to appear at the hearing and when the matter is called explain to the judge that the parties have agreed on an order of attorneys fees and ask the Court to approve it.

Easy enough, right?  If not contact us and we can help you.