Can I make my spouse pay for my Wisconsin divorce lawyer?

Can I make my spouse pay for my Wisconsin divorce lawyer?

Yes,  but it is not guaranteed in a Wisconsin divorce.   Wisconsin law allows a judge to order one spouse to assist in paying the other’s attorney’s fees in family cases (divorce, child support, paternity, etc.).   This usually happens in one of three instances:  (1) when one spouse has access to greater assets or income than the other; (2) when one spouse has behaved unreasonably, causing excessive court time and lawyer fees; and (3) to provide each spouse with a similar fee/retainer advance for their respective lawyers at the beginning of the action.

This rule should not be viewed as an equalizer for Wisconsin divorce legal fees.   Each spouse chooses his/her lawyer, and presumably accounts for the differences in style of practice, responsiveness, and legal fees when making that decision.  For the most part, judges in Wisconsin divorce cases will not order a contribution to fees solely because one spouse’s legal fees were higher than the other’s.  If a contribution to fees is awarded to a spouse, it is usually for a specific action taken by that spouse’s lawyer.  Sometimes, if there is enough money for both spouses, the judge will order a contribution to the overall legal bill.  Those instances usually involve some type of misconduct by the spouse ordered to pay the other’s fees.  In my years of practice as a Wisconsin divorce lawyer, I have never had a judge require a spouse to pay the other’s fees solely to balance out the overall legal bills.

That does not mean that you cannot obtain a contribution, or that you should not retain a Wisconsin divorce lawyer.  Even if you do not have access to funds immediately, it is wise to consult with a Wisconsin family lawyer rather than representing yourself.   I often work with clients who lack an initial fee advance if there is a good chance of obtaining a contribution to fees.

Published by David Kowalski

Attorney David Kowalski is the founding owner of Kowalski, Wilson & Vang, LLC, handling all family law cases from divorce, paternity, child custody, termination of parental rights, restraining orders, and guardianships.

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