Attorney Fees in Divorce Are All About Equitable Considerations
Video Transcribed: She wants you to pay all the bills. She thinks you should pay her alimony. And now she wants you to pay her attorney as well as your own. You are dealing with an entitled ex-spouse. My name is Brian L. Jackson I am a Men’s Divorce Attorney Tulsa with Dads.Law, And today we’re going to talk about how to deal with the entitled ex-spouse.
Well, this is a problem that comes up more frequently than I think guys would like to believe, particularly in cases where you are one of those guys who’s actually done something with their life and has had some success. Your ex has been part of that success but now feels like because the relationship is ending she’s entitled to a bigger chunk of the pie than you, and she should make no effort in order to get that chunk of the pie. So how do you defend against that?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is if you do earn more than your ex, you could be held to be responsible for either alimony or a greater chunk of the bills as a result of that. That’s a fact of life. It’s something to be aware of, it’s something to accept coming in. But that doesn’t mean that you should pay for everything. Divorce is about equitable division. It’s not about one spouse getting all the benefits while the other spouse gets to pay for everything. That’s not what it’s supposed to be. Although if you’re not careful, that’s how it can work out.
What do you do about the entitled ex-spouse? Well, to start with, I think if you know you’re going to have to pay more, you should be strategic about how you pay more. There are certain things that are better ways to pay more than other things.
One of the big things I would recommend to a client is if you know you earn more than your ex, and you know you’re going to get ordered to pay something, start paying the bills. And here’s why. I would much rather, if it’s me, pay a bunch of creditors to who I owe money anyway, and it’s benefiting me because it’s clearing up my balance sheet. You’re getting these debts out of your name so you can improve your credit and your ability to borrow in the future. It gets those bills out of your hair so you don’t have to pay them forever.
The other thing about paying bills is that at least to the extent it’s past marital debt, it’s a finite number of payments over a finite period of time. So you’re not on the hook for it forever. The alternative, if you get ordered to pay her alimony, that could be for an indefinite period of time. And additionally, she’s incentivized that if you do start earning more while you’re separated or divorced, if you were more successful, she can come back and ask the court to adjust that upward. The bills are the bills.
Now, the other thing you can do to help protect yourself takes a look at how she’s employed and talk to your attorney about this. If she’s underemployed, your attorney should know about that, and it should be brought to the court’s attention. Because she shouldn’t be able to try and argue that she should get the benefit of your increased income simply because she’s chosen to take a job that’s below what her education and experience allow her to get.
So that’s something to pay attention to as well. But I think paying the bills is a good strategy to avoid that. Because you can walk into court and basically say, “Look, she’s getting the benefit of that difference because I’m paying the debts and she’s not.” So you pay the car note, you pay for the credit cards. In an extreme case, you might even look at helping her out on a temporary basis with utilities or a rent bill. And I’m not saying you commit to that forever, but in the short term, it might save you having to get signed up for a long-term commitment on alimony or getting stuck with her attorney’s fees.
I think attorney fees are a topic in and of themselves, but I will mention this is one of the factors that is considered in matrimonial litigation as far as attorney’s fees go is the ability to pay at any income differential between the parties. So in other words, if you earn a significant amount more than her, she would have an argument, maybe not a good argument, but an argument to have you pay her attorney’s fees. Again, one way to avoid that is by applying the differential in your income somewhere else, in other words to the bills.
Also, bear in mind that that’s not a decisive factor, and you want to talk to your attorney about other factors that might come into play. How did you end up getting split up is one? Another one is if litigation gets protracted, whose fault is it? Because those are factors as well, and those can help you avoid that attorney’s fee award. If she’s being a difficult something, then one thing you can do is have your attorney bring that to the court’s attention, that she’s the one causing the additional cost.
Because attorney fees in divorce are all about equitable considerations, if she complicates the litigation, then she comes into court… or I should say, if she needlessly complicates the litigation and she comes into court and asks for attorney’s fees, the obvious response is, “Well, judge, she did this to herself, and now she expecting me to pay for her dalliances. I don’t think so.”
The last consideration that can actually help you and will affect how much you pay her totally both in … well, directly it affects child support, which it’s a discussion for another time. But it may also affect what you’re going to pay in terms of whether or not you have to pay her attorney’s fees and whether or not you end up paying alimony in custody.
If she’s got custody the majority of the time, then she can certainly cite the expenses of the children in asking the court for an award of either attorney’s fees or an award of alimony by saying, “Well, I have this expense.” Well, how do you offset that? Simple. You ask for joint custody. That’ll reduce your child support liability, and it makes it harder for her to make the argument about things like the grocery bill or higher rent, or higher costs for expenses.
Any of those things can be headed off if you just simply say, “Okay, I’ll take them off your hands for half the time.” Now, a lot of women will probably try to fight you over that, but it’s something you definitely want to keep in mind and talk to your attorney about is joint custody. It’s the best defense against a big child support award, and it can help you with these other kinds of expenses as well.
Now, if you are dealing with a self-entitled ex who thinks that you should pay for everything and you need help, you should go to Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable. Thanks, guys.