Who Pays Attorney Fees In Child Custody Cases?

Who Pays Attorney Fees In Child Custody Cases?
July 10, 2023

If you are filing for divorce or dissolution in Ohio and you have children who are dependent on you, then your divorce case is also technically a child custody case. Even if you and your spouse have agreed upon the arrangements, working with a child custody attorney or collaborative divorce lawyer will ensure that you have an advocate on your side. This is especially important when it comes to determining responsibility for attorney fees. 

At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, our Cleveland divorce lawyers aim to gain clients the very best outcome, for each and every child custody case. Sometimes, this includes a discussion over who is responsible for paying attorney fees. Here we will explain the typical series of events and share some factors that may merit an exception to the norm.

Who Is Responsible for Child Custody Attorney Fees?

Put simply, the individual who engages the child custody attorney is generally responsible for paying for this service and for other legal fees, from gathering evidence and hiring experts to court filings and any other expenses incurred. That just makes sense. However, at the time of a decree of divorce, dissolution, or shared parenting being signed by a judge, some parents may be anticipating that they will be compensated for their attorney fees by their spouse. 

Since a child custody case in Ohio could cost anywhere from $3,000-$30,000 or more, it is understandable that a costlier case may become a financial burden for some. Is it reasonable, though, to expect the court to award compensation for child custody attorney fees? Regulations will inevitably vary, based on location and each individual’s circumstances, but we can say that yes, in some cases, a spouse can be held responsible for the other’s attorney fees.

Exceptions To The Rule

As experienced divorce lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, the team at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC has seen instances where one party in a divorce is mandated to pay their ex-spouse’s attorney fees. This practice is called “fee shifting” and while it is not necessarily the norm, there are certainly cases in which the court feels justified in making this call. These situations can include the following reasons:

  • Income Disparity: To ensure that both spouses have fair access to legal representation, the court may require a spouse that is far more financially well-off to pay for their less-financially secure spouse’s attorney fees.
  • Bad Faith Behavior: An uncooperative party who tries to delay proceedings, attempts to hide financial data or falsify information, coaches a child’s testimony, or who does anything else that the court deems to be done in bad faith may be required to pay the other party’s attorney fees.
  • Child’s Best Interest: Child custody attorneys and judges always prioritize any children that are involved, and so may order one parent to pay the other’s attorney fees if they feel it will speed up proceedings or benefit the child in another way.
  • Part of Child Support: In cases where paying for a child custody attorney is seen as vital to a child’s welfare, the court may order the non-custodial parent to cover this expense.

In cases where one spouse was the primary financial provider for the family prior to divorce, it is generally true that they will also be responsible for the other party’s attorney fees. Some may have heard that the “loser” in a child custody or divorce case is typically made to pay. That is simply not true. Not only are there no losers or winners in a child custody case, but taking this approach is detrimental as it could discourage individuals from pursuing valid legal claims. A variety of factors combine to form the court’s opinion as to whether they require one party to pay the other’s child custody attorney fees.

Factors That Affect Cost

Divorce and child custody cases will vary drastically in cost, depending on various factors. These could be as simple as location, but could also include the level of cooperation between parties, the complexity of the case, the amount of time and effort needed to uncover key details, and whether both parties are in agreement on the terms of the divorce and child custody arrangements. Clearly, having two parties in agreement and ready to collaborate will naturally mean a shorter, less costly process overall. If spouses cannot agree, mediation is a solid option for a faster and more affordable resolution when compared with litigation, however it will still take some time and incur some additional costs.

Recovering Attorney Fees

Aside from the court’s ruling, individuals can include a request for payment of attorney fees in their initial pleadings. This is often recommended, as the opposing party is entitled to notice of the request. It is also possible to file a motion for recompense once the court has made a decision on the main child custody question, however waiting until the end of the process may not yield ideal results. Of course it is possible that after examining such a request and looking into available evidence, the judge could very well grant such a motion. Keep in mind that the request to cover attorney fees must be reasonable and restricted to costs incurred for the child custody case alone.

Work With Experienced Child Custody Lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio

Adjusting to life as a single parent is difficult, to say the least. That is even more true if you were financially dependent on your ex-spouse. If, instead, you were the primary breadwinner, then you are likely still very concerned about your child’s wellbeing, and would sacrifice financially to ensure their welfare. Whatever the case may be, rights are always better protected when you opt to work with an experienced and knowledgeable divorce lawyer. 

At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC we are primarily concerned with carrying out a divorce or child custody case in a way that causes the least harm to your child(ren). Whatever that may mean in regards to attorney fees, we promise to do our utmost to fairly represent you and provide the most resources for the best possible outcome for your child. 

If you are contemplating divorce and concerned about child custody but not sure that you can afford attorney fees, please do not hesitate to contact us. There are always ways to work with you, and we would be honored to help your family find resolution.