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Who Pays the Legal Fees in a Divorce?

Someone is putting his hands over a glass table in an effort to explain who pays the legal fees in a divorce.

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Law Definitions

Going into a divorce is a very harsh situation. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional stress that comes with it, but also take into account legal and financial matters. As part of the process, it is common for questions like, who pays the legal fees in a divorce or what happens if you can’t pay the attorney’s fees or what can you do to prevent them to arise?

To go through these questions, we will talk about no-fault divorces, uncontested and contested ones, how mediation can save you time and money, and what you can do to get an attorney fee award. 

For the time being, please note that each spouse is responsible for any legal fees incurred during the process. Getting a spouse to pay for the attorney’s fees incurred by the other spouse is a special situation called an attorney fee award

With that in mind, let’s find out how you can get a divorce quickly and cheaply.

Uncontested vs contested divorce

It is pretty common to think that a divorce is a painful process where you need lots of money to get through it. Yet, not all divorces have to be that way. Mostly, it depends on whether the divorce is uncontested or not. Something that’s covered by Family Law.

In Washington State, all divorces are considered no-fault divorces. That means you don’t have to have a reason, like adultery or domestic violence, to file for a divorce. It only needs your will to terminate the relationship.

When you can agree on all the key factors involved in a divorce with your spouse, you can file papers for a divorce even online and pay the court fee to process the dissolution of marriage (divorce) plus additional charges (photocopying and services fees). 

This fee will be paid by the spouse asking to file the divorce. However, you can agree with your spouse to pay half of that. In this situation, the whole process will take 90 days starting after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed and served to the other spouse. After that time, you will be legally divorced.

A divorced like this one is called an uncontested dissolution of marriage. This is a quick and cheap way to get divorced. For this to happen, you and your spouse should agree upon:

  1. Alimony or spousal support.
  2. Division of property and debt.
  3. Child custody.
  4. Child support.

In this situation, you may want to hire an attorney to make sure the marital settlement agreement is not one-sided.

Most of the time, an attorney’s fee will vary depending on the extent to which they will be handling the divorce proceedings. If they only have to check that your divorce papers look good and are fair to you, you don’t have to pay thousands to get divorced.

Going to mediation

If you and your spouse are willing to file an uncontested divorce, but still can’t come up to an agreement on key factors, both of you may want to hire a neutral attorney or any mental health professional with experience in helping people to reach an agreement.

This type of service is not free though. Most of the time, you will have to pay a fixed fee going around $500.00 to  $1,000.00 per session which is cheaper than going through a contested divorce.

Obtaining an attorney fee award

In case you can’t agree with your spouse on alimony, division of property and debt, child custody, and child support, you will have to hire an attorney to represent your case in court.

Everything about your personal life will be aired there so that the judge can decide on matters you couldn’t agree upon with your spouse. In a contested divorce, you will likely spend years going through the process and, as you might expect, attorney’s fees will be high, you will have to spend more time and face the natural stress that comes with such a situation.

While going through a contested divorce, you can get an attorney fee award. Now, this is not an easy process. First, you need to file the necessary forms and demonstrate you can’t afford to pay attorney’s fees. Once the judge hears each party’s arguments, the judge will decide whether the requested attorney fee award is granted.


From a human point of view, ending a relationship is a painful process for everyone involved, including your children. Yet, there are times when we are better off saying goodbye, especially when the situation is unbearable for any reason.

Hiring an attorney to guide you through this process and advise you is the easiest way to go through your divorce. If you happen to have questions or doubts, please get in touch with legal experts to assess your particular situation. You don’t have to go through this alone, we are here to support you.

By: MarkAdmin

By: MarkAdmin

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