Domestic relations cases are difficult for the lawyer just as they are difficult for the client.

The lawyer must expend considerable time and considerable energy for which he must be paid. No insurance fund or other painless source of payment exists in domestic relations cases. You must pay the fee. This may be particularly difficult when you are going through the emotional pain and financial uncertainty of divorce. Legal fees are unusual expenses but should be worth every penny. The alternative of not having your rights protected would be disastrous.

If you have a meritorious case, if your spouse’s misconduct caused the dissolution of the marriage, or if you cannot afford to pay your attorney's fees, then you may be entitled to a court order requiring that your spouse pay your attorney's fees. Likewise, the court may require you to pay your spouse's attorney's fees if the circumstances are reversed.

Factors that the judge should consider in setting an attorney's fee include the nature, extent, and difficulty of the services rendered; the time and labor necessarily devoted to the case; the professional standing of the lawyer; the risk that the lawyer would not be paid without court-ordered attorney's fees; the beneficial results accomplished for the client; and the fee customarily charged in the community for similar legal services.

In a small or uncomplicated case the trial judge may arbitrarily set an attorney's fee at some amount, sometimes less than $1,000. In a long, complicated, and difficult case there may be lengthy testimony from the lawyer seeking attorney's fees and from other lawyers who testify as expert witnesses. In such a case the trial judge may order an attorney's fee of many tens of thousands of dollars. In the situations between these two extremes, the lawyer seeking the attorney's fee may produce an affidavit as to the extent and value of his services.

While the attorney's fee provisions affect you, presentation of the claim for attorney's fees is primarily a problem for the lawyer seeking the fee to present and to resolve. Normally the judge will allow some time, usually thirty days, for the attorney's fee to be paid.

Note that the attorney’s fee award from the Court is separate from your agreement with your lawyer to pay his fee. Most often, an award of attorney’s fees by the Court means reimbursement to you for attorney’s fees you will have already paid. See Chapter 32, Fee Agreement, page 66.