Attorney’s fees are often expensive, and you may be hoping that your ex will have to pay your legal bills. The answer is: probably not, unless extreme circumstances warrant it. There is no way to tell if a judge will require your ex to pay for your legal bills. Generally, Missouri courts will follow the “American Rule” when it comes to legal fees, which requires that each party pay their own legal bills. However, there are some situations where the judge will require one spouse to pay the attorneys’ fees of the other.
When considering an award of legal fees, the judge will look at the financial resources of each party, the behavior of both spouses during the case, and the information that was presented during the case. Judges are usually very reluctant to award attorney’s fees. However, in cases where attorney’s fees are awarded, it is often as a result of the court considering the behavior of the parties during the case as well as the financial resources available to each. This means that even if you think you do not have the money to pay your legal bills, the judge does not have to award you attorney’s fees.
On the other side of the coin, you may be worried that the judge might require you to cover your ex’s legal expenses. To avoid this, behave yourself. While you may think your spouse is a rotten liar and an all-around horrible person, the judge is not going to be happy if you use the divorce process to exact revenge for marital misconduct. If you put up a fight over every small issue that arises and refuse to compromise, the judge might order you to compensate your ex. If that happens, nobody wins, and time and money are wasted to no avail.
If you are at the beginning of the divorce process, do not plan for your ex to pay your legal bills. Communicate with your attorney regarding your financial situation and plan out the costs associated with your divorce. Cooperate with your ex’s attorney to produce documents and other information to avoid costs associated with frequently going to court. Ask your attorney what you can do to help cut costs, such as organizing information and labeling documents you submit to them so that you are not paying them to do something you could have done yourself. Understanding your potential financial responsibility at the beginning of your case allows you to be more informed throughout your divorce as opposed to ignoring the reality of the financial costs of your legal fees in hopes that your ex will be footing the bill.