Who Pays for Attorney Fees in a Divorce in Palm Springs, California?

Divorce cases involve a myriad of factors, ranging from custody to asset retention. These can have drastic long-term effects for all parties involved. One of the biggest aspects of any divorce is the financial impact of the proceedings. From court fees to legal services, the financial undertaking of a divorce case can be high. Knowing what fees to expect can be extremely helpful before filing.

What Fees Are Associated With a Divorce?

As with any legal issue, hiring a lawyer will come with legal fees to pay for their services, and divorce cases are no different. Filing for divorce involves multiple kinds of payments, ranging from routine filing to attorney fees. The price breakdowns for these are as follows:

  • Filing Fees: In California, a divorce filing costs $435. Once served with a divorce order, your spouse will also be required to pay $435 if they choose to address your complaint and counter-file. Filing for a divorce is a mandatory fee payment. However, if you are unable to pay these fees in full, you may request a fee waiver.
  • Retainer: The average initial retainer required by lawyers for their services is between $3,000 and $5,000. Before a trial, a lawyer receives this payment, which is utilized to retain their services beyond the initial meeting. These non-refundable payments help secure your relationship with that attorney and can range in price based on the firm and their rates for service.
  • Hourly Fees: The cost of a divorce lawyer can range considerably from firm to firm, but the length of your case can also affect the amount you pay in legal fees. For example, if you have an amicable divorce and end up avoiding a lengthy trial, your final legal fees could be considerably less than if your case were to go on for a longer period. Each family law attorney chooses the amount they charge per hour, so prices will range dramatically based on who you choose to work with.

The total amount of money spent on your divorce is contingent on the length and complexity of your trial. The expected and unavoidable fees, your filing fee and retainer, are typically set amounts with little to no variation. However, the hourly rate of your legal team can vary drastically throughout your case. The best way to avoid larger legal fees is to seek an amicable divorce, where you and your spouse can agree to the terms of your divorce in a friendly manner. Although this would be ideal, this is not always how divorce proceedings will go. Often, going to trial cannot be avoided.

Can My Spouse Pay My Legal Fees?

Depending on the financial situation between you and your future ex-spouse, your spouse may be eligible to cover your legal expenses during your divorce trial. The financial situations of both you and your spouse are considered when deciding any financial outcomes of your divorce, including your ability to pay your legal fees. For example, if your spouse was the sole provider of your household, and you are not currently employed, your legal team can petition the court to order your ex-spouse to pay your legal fees. On the other hand, if you are the sole breadwinner of your household and you are faced with a cost order, your legal team can reject this order and use any information from discovery to support their decision. Every case is different, and the financial standing of either party can be an issue when facing large legal fees. Cost orders are not standard practice, though, and are only granted if there is enough supporting evidence.


Q: What Is the Average Retainer Fee for a Divorce Lawyer in California?

A: The average initial retainer required by lawyers for their services is between $3,000 and $5,000. Before a trial, a lawyer receives this upfront payment, which is used to retain their continued service throughout your divorce process. Although these payments are non-refundable, retainers are a great way to secure the consistent, trustworthy legal representation early in the divorce process that you feel is right for your case.

Q: How Much Are Court Fees for Divorce in California?

A: In California, the cost of a divorce ranges from the $435 filing fee to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the total length of the case. On average, a divorce in California typically costs around $17,500. Again, this is subject to change based on the length of your case and the fees presented by your attorney. Post-settlement payments can create more expenses as well.

Q: Is It Better to Be the Petitioner or the Respondent in a Divorce?

A: There is no advantage to being the petitioner or respondent in an RFO or divorce case. This may seem unlikely, as the party submitting the RFO, or request for order, gets to present their case first in these meetings. However, California courts do not consider the party who files the motion favorably or unfavorably because it is a “no-fault” divorce state, so both parties start on a level playing field.

Q: What Is a Cost Order in a Divorce?

A: A cost order is essentially an order to pay the legal fees of another party in a divorce. For example, if your spouse is unable to pay their legal fees because you are the sole income provider in your relationship, you may be asked by a judge to pay their legal fees. This is not a common occurrence, and their legal team has to petition the court to get a cost order in place.

Finding Help With Financing Your Divorce

Whether you are seeking a divorce or have been served divorce papers, there is a hefty financial responsibility tied to any divorce acknowledgment. Fortunately, with the help of a divorce attorney, the financial aspects of a divorce can be easily understood and navigated. At the Law Offices of Athina K. Powers, we can help you understand the finances of your divorce, helping you only pay what you need to settle.