How can I afford a divorce attorney if my husband controls the finances?
As a family law attorney with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Weston, I routinely receives phone calls from dejected wives claiming the following fact pattern, “My husband’s salary is over 60k per year; I am a stay at home wife caring for our two children. My husband controls the bank accounts; I have no money. If I file for divorce my husband will “cut me off”. How can I pay for a divorce attorney?”
Surprising (at least to some) is that a large majority of these wives believe that since their husbands control the finances only they can retain a family law attorney in the event of a divorce. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To be clear, if you are a stay at home wife (or mother) and you husband is earning a decent salary, your husband will very likely be ordered to contribute to your attorney’s fees and/or provide you with temporary financial support.
In Florida, provisions are in place to ensure that both parties in divorce will have a “similar ability to secure competent legal counsel.” Additionally, it is not necessary that the wife is completely unable to pay attorney’s fees in order for the trial court to require the husband to pay for such fees. Simply put, an experienced divorce attorney will promptly request the Court to order the husband to satisfy the Wife’s attorney’s fees when warranted. Lyons, Snyder & Collin routinely files Motions for Temporary Support at the inception of the case. Please click on the link to review a Motion for Temporary Support filed by Lyons, Snyder & Collin in a divorce proceeding in Broward County, Florida.
Temporary attorney’s fees are based on need vs. ability to pay. This is an equitable argument. Both factors (need and ability to pay) must be met before the Court will award attorney’s fees.
If the Judge determines that the wife has a need (i.e. stay at home mother caring for children) and that her husband has the superior ability to pay, an experienced divorce attorney will promptly request the husband to pay the wife’s temporary attorney’s fees and temporary financial support (including temporary alimony and temporary child support). Alimony could include paying for the wife’s living expenses such as the mortgage, insurance, electric, and car payments; Child Support could include paying for the children’s private school or day care. In some cases, the Judge may also award the wife with temporary exclusive possession of the marital residence. It is worth noting that temporary support is paid out of income – the wife is not compelled to consume separate assets (either marital or non-marital) to maintain the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.
In a temporary support hearing, the Judge will also look at the assets of the marriage to determine if temporary attorney’s fees are warranted. The Judge will not require the wife’s divorce attorney to “act as a bank” during the divorce proceedings. Again the Judge considers the “relative need” of the wife when awarding temporary support – one of the biggest factors is disparity in income.
Here is the type of language an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney would include in its pleadings when requesting attorney’s fees.
The Wife has been required to retain the services of the undersigned attorneys. She is unable to pay reasonable attorney’s fees, costs, suit money, and expert fees needed for these proceedings. The Wife is entitled to attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to §61.16, Fla. Stat, Rosen v. Rosen, and its progency based on the Husband’s superior ability to pay and her need for such an award and/or if the Husband engages in any vexatious or unnecessary litigation.
The bottom line: A stay at home wife (or a wife making substantially less income than her husband) should not be bullied around by their husband or agree to unfavorable divorce terms either pro se (without an attorney) or through their husband’s personal divorce attorney. Both parties are entitled to the divorce attorney of their liking A husband who falsely claims that only they can retain a divorce attorney and that they will crush the unemployed wife in Court without an attorney is either lying or grossly misinformed.
If you are considering filing for divorce in Broward County but are afraid that you cannot afford an experienced family law attorney because your spouse controls the finances, please speak with a divorce attorney ASAP. Many divorce attorneys, including the family law attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin, offer consultations free of charge.