If I get a lawyer, can the judge order my spouse to pay my attorney fees?
The judge has the authority to order that the either party pay the attorney fees of the other party in any claim for divorce, dissolution of civil union, termination of domestic partnership, nullity, support, alimony, custody, parenting time, equitable distribution, separate maintenance, enforcement of agreements between spouses, domestic partners, or civil union partners and claims relating to family type matters. The judge can make this order while the case is pending (known as pendente lite) or at the end of the case. The judge will have to determine if an award of attorney fees is appropriate in each situation.
When determining the amount of the fee award, the judge will consider the following factors:
- the financial circumstances of the parties;
- the ability of the parties to pay their own lawyer’s fees or to contribute to the fees of the other party;
- the reasonableness and good faith of the positions put forth by each party during trial and before trial;
- how much the fees are for each party;
- any fees previously awarded;
- the amount of fees previously paid to the lawyers by each party;
- the results obtained by each party in the case;
- the degree to which fees were incurred to enforce existing orders or to compel discovery; and
- any other factor that relates to the fairness of an award of attorney’s fees.1
1 NJ Court R. 5:3-5(c)