Hiring a Private Attorney When Your Spouse Controls the Finances: Legal Options for Divorce

Divorce is challenging under any circumstances, but it becomes especially daunting when one spouse controls all the finances, leaving the other feeling trapped, powerless, and believing they cannot afford a divorce attorney. For stay-at-home spouses or those with limited financial independence, the prospect of hiring a private attorney may seem impossible. However, legal options exist to ensure fair representation, even when financial resources are unequal. This article explores how individuals in financially controlling marriages in Massachusetts can secure legal counsel and potentially have their spouse cover the costs, providing a pathway to reclaiming autonomy and navigating the divorce process with confidence.

In many cases, a court can order your spouse to pay for your attorney’s fees. This is particularly relevant in situations where there is a significant disparity in financial control and resources between spouses. Here’s how it typically works:

Temporary Orders for Attorney’s Fees
You can request temporary orders from the court at the beginning of the divorce process. These orders can include provisions for attorney’s fees. Your attorney will file a motion for temporary relief, explaining your financial dependence and the need for your spouse to cover legal costs.

Statutory Provisions
In Massachusetts, under General Laws Chapter 208, the court has the authority to order one party to pay the legal fees of the other if necessary to ensure fair legal representation. The court will consider factors such as the financial circumstances of both parties, the conduct of the parties during the litigation, and the reasonableness of the requested fees.

Steps to Take
Understanding your legal options is the first step toward regaining control and securing the representation you need. Here are the steps to take if you find yourself in a financially controlling marriage and need to hire a private attorney for your divorce:

  1. Consult with an Attorney:
    • Reach out to several family law attorneys and explain your situation. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations where you can discuss your situation and explore the possibility of requesting attorney’s fees from your spouse.
  2. File a Motion for Temporary Orders:
    • Your attorney will file a motion for temporary orders, including a request for attorney’s fees, at the beginning of the divorce proceedings. This motion will outline your financial situation and the need for your spouse to cover your legal costs.
  3. Gather Financial Information:
    • Collect any financial documents you can access, such as bank statements, tax returns, and evidence of your spouse’s income and assets. This information will support your request for attorney’s fees.
  4. Attend the Court Hearing:
    • Attend the court hearing where the judge will review your request for temporary orders, including attorney’s fees. Be prepared to explain your financial dependence and the necessity of having your spouse pay for your legal representation.
  5. Follow Court Orders:
    • If the court grants your request, your spouse will be legally obligated to pay your attorney’s fees as ordered. Ensure you comply with all court orders and provide any requested information promptly.

Speak With an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If you find yourself in a financially controlling marriage and need legal assistance to file for divorce, do not hesitate to seek help. Contact an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and help you request attorney’s fees from your spouse. Ensuring you have the right legal representation is crucial to protecting your rights and securing a fair outcome in your divorce proceedings. Remember, legal resources and support are available to help you regain control and move forward with your life.

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