Divorce Litigation: Can My Spouse Pay For My Attorney?

Did you happen to catch CNBC’s documentary Divorce Wars when it premiered last weekend? Promoted as “CNBC goes inside the confidential world of multi-million dollar divorce revealing the secrets of winning and losing on a battle field of emotional pain and financial gain”, the show highlighted, among other stories, the creation of Balance Point Funding, a company that provides money from private investors to fund divorce litigation in exchange for a percentage of the divorce settlement. According to its founder, Stacy Napp, the idea for the company was born from the challenges she faced in funding her own divorce litigation.

While creative, this is not the only option for a divorcing spouse in California. Rather, as a San Diego Divorce attorney, I regularly file motions for a contribution from the other spouse to my client’s attorney fees under Family Code Section 2030. This type of a motion is appropriate where there is a disparity between the parties in access to funds to retain counsel (in other words, “need”), and where one party is able to pay for legal representation of both parties (in other words, “ability”). The statute is designed to ensure that each party has access to legal representation, including access early in the proceedings, to preserve their respective rights.

While Family Code section 2030 addresses the allocation of attorney fees and cost, what about costs other than attorney fees and costs, such as court costs, expert fees and consultant fees? Family Code section 2032 provides a procedure by which either party may file a motion requesting that the court designate their case as complex or involving substantial issues of fact or law related to property rights, visitation, custody, or support. If the case is then designated as complex, the court has the discretion to allocate between the parties attorney fees and also court costs, expert fees, and consultant fees.