How Do I Pay for an Attorney When My Spouse Was the Breadwinner?

Although the situation is less common than it was three or four decades ago, many families still have a single income wage-earner. When the topic of divorce is broached, the non-wage earning spouse is frequently, and reasonably, anxious. "Sure," they might think, "Laura can afford an attorney, but I've been a stay-at-home dad for fifteen years.  How am I supposed to pay for competent legal advice?"

Fortunately, the Minnesota state legislature has crafted a solution to this problem.  Minn. Stat. §518.14 allows for a party to a divorce to request that the court order the other side to pay their attorney fees. The requesting party must prove that three conditions are satisfied before the court will order such an award:

  • The fees must be necessary for the good faith assertion of the requesting party's rights in the divorce, and the fees will not contribute unnecessarily to the link and expense of the proceeding;
  •  The party requesting that their fees be paid must not have the means to pay them; and
  •  The party from whom fees are requested must have the means to pay them.

The court can even award attorney fees after the divorce has already been completed.  That said, the court is well within its power to deny any such request, and a party to a divorce should not rely upon the possibility that the court will grant an award of need-based attorney fees.  Your attorney will almost certainly still need some kind of retainer to proceed with your case, as various court procedures, mediation, depositions, and other facets of your case may have costs associated with them other than just the attorney fees.   

If you are concerned about your ability to come up with a retainer, speak to your attorney about financing options. Many attorneys will take credit cards, even if they do not advertise the fact, or have contacts at local banks that can help with short-term personal loans.

if you are contemplating or involved in a pending divorce and are concerned about your ability to pay for competent legal advice, contact Toepfer at Law today for a confidential consultation.  We can discuss a variety of options and payment plans to suit your situation.  Call (320) 497-4416 or email anthony.toepfer@atonyatlaw.com today to schedule your appointment.

Meet Tony Toepfer

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Attorney Anthony (Tony) Toepfer began his legal career in the area of business and technology law. While successful in that field, he felt there was something missing. He turned down opportunities, because, as he says, “I wanted to see the face…

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