Can I Be Forced To Pay My Spouse’s Divorce Attorney In Michigan?
If you are getting divorced and do not have a prenuptial agreement, odds are you will have to divide your property with your spouse. If this is the case, be aware that this also includes spousal support. Additionally, the judge may decide that spousal support is warranted if your spouse will experience financial hardship as a result of the divorce. In certain circumstances, this includes paying your spouse’s attorney fees.
Richards v. Richards
In a recent 2015 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that in order to be awarded attorney fees, your spouse must show that they are unable to handle expenses that you are able to take care of, or that the fees were incurred as the result of your failure to comply with a previous ruling.
The Michigan Compiled Laws Section 552.13(1) statute requires you to pay your spouse’s attorney fees. This statute allows the court to mandate that you “pay any sums necessary to enable the adverse party to carry on or defend the action.” Additionally, Michigan Court Rule (“MCR”) MCR 3.206(C) allows your spouse to request that you pay their attorney fees and related costs. This statute allows your spouse to “request that the court order the other party to pay all or part of the attorney fees and expenses related to the action or a specific proceeding.”
When Your Spouse Requests That You Pay Their Attorney Fees
When your spouse requests that you pay their attorney fees, they will have to show that they are unable to pay for a specific action and that you are able to bear the expense. Additionally, they could request you pay their fees due to bad conduct on your part. This includes failing to comply with a previously issued court order.
In Cummings v Wayne Co, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that trial courts have the authority to sanction misconduct. A subsequent ruling in Hanaway v Hanaway opens the door to one party paying for the entire divorce specifically “when the requesting party has been forced to incur expenses as a result of the other’s party’s unreasonable conduct in the course of litigation.”
Other relevant cases include Borowsky v Borowsky and Reed v Reed. In the former, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that the burden of proof falls on the party requesting the attorney fees, meaning it is up to your spouse to show sufficient evidence justifying their claim. In Reed v Reed, the court determined they are required to determine whether or not “unreasonable conduct” occurred and whether attorney fees were incurred as a result.
If your spouse is requesting that you pay their attorney fees, you should consult a lawyer to determine the best path going forward. They may be able to negotiate a reduced settlement, or prove why you should not have to pay in the first place. Additionally, having a competent attorney at your side will reduce the overall amount of stress you experience during court proceedings.
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