Can a Woman Make Her Husband Pay for Her Divorce?

By Angie Gambone

Woman overwhelmed by finances

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As a general rule, you cannot force your husband to pay for your divorce. If your husband does not willingly give you money for your divorce, the only other way to force him to pay is to have a judge issue a court order. However, judges will usually only do this in extreme circumstances where the family finances are so one-sided that it would be completely unfair for one side to have an attorney and the other to go without. The bottom line is that you must file a motion with the court if you are to have any success in making your husband pay for some or all of your divorce fees.

Income Disparities

It is not uncommon for a wife to earn very little money during a marriage, especially if she has been a stay at home caretaker for children while her husband works. A divorce retainer can often cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of a case. In some situations, a husband may remove his wife's name from all accounts or switch his paychecks into a separate account, leaving his wife with no money. Even if a wife has access to some money for her living expenses, it may be difficult for her to come up with the large amount of money needed to hire a divorce attorney. In situations such as this, the wife can file a motion asking the court to require the husband to pay her attorney's fees and legal costs. The judge will review the family finances and determine what amount, if any, the husband should pay.

Wife's Access to Funds

If a wife has access to her own funds, such as from her own employment or savings, or joint funds, the court will likely require her to pay her own legal fees. There is no law in any state that requires one side to pay the other side's legal fees based on gender. The more important issue is access to money. Therefore, if a wife is able to use her own money or borrow money, she would be expected to pay her own fees. Also, you should keep in mind that if you are a woman who earns much more money than your husband, the court may require you to contribute toward his legal fees. It does not matter which person filed the complaint for divorce.

Advance on Equitable Distribution

As part of every divorce, the family assets and debts get divided at the end. Those assets would include bank accounts, such as savings and checking accounts, money market accounts, individual retirement accounts and stock accounts. Sometimes, at the beginning of a divorce, the court will order that a wife's counsel fees and costs be given to her as an advance on her share of the assets. In such a case, the husband is not actually paying for the divorce because the wife's fees are being paid from money that would have been hers at the end of the process.

Bad Faith

Sometimes a husband can make a divorce more complicated and more expensive by engaging in bad behavior. For example, he may hide assets or refuse to provide documents. He may also engage in frivolous litigation by refusing to negotiate or by making false allegations about his wife. If this occurs, the court will usually order the husband to pay some or all of his wife's counsel fees, because it was not her fault that the process was so complex and expensive. However, this rule applies equally to both genders. Therefore, if a wife acts in bad faith during the divorce process, she can also be required to pay her husband's fees.