When Attorney’s Fee Are Awarded in Divorce Case

Let's Untie the Knot | When Attorney's Fee Are Awarded in Divorce Case

Hiring a divorce attorney can be very expensive.  Especially in the acrimonious divorces, the fees can accumulate rapidly.  Even if you are using an attorney on a “limited” basis to review and revise your forms, it is still a cost you didn’t plan on.  Clients often ask, “can the court make my spouse pay for my attorney’s fees?”  As in many areas of the law, the answer is “maybe.”  The law in Oregon divorce cases does allow the court to award one party all or a portion of their attorney’s fees associated with their case in very limited circumstances.

There are a few situations where the judge does make one side pay the fees for the opposing party.  First, the court may decide to award a party attorney’s fees when the other party has behaved badly during the course of the divorce. These fees are generally awarded after the completion of the case under ORCP 68.

In addition, if one side controls all of the marital assets in a case, the court can award “suit money” to allow the other side the benefit of an attorney.  For example, imagine a situation where a woman is a stay-at-home mom and the husband works and controls all of the marital assets.   Should the husband decide to “cut off” the wife from the marital funds during the divorce, the court can award the wife attorney’s fees.