A spouse who is dependent upon another spouse for financial support may find herself/himself with little or no income and limited financial resources when the parties separate. Financial constraints can make it difficult for a dependent spouse to retain an attorney to pursue claims for postseparation support and/or alimony.
In order to level the playing field and allow a dependent spouse to employ legal counsel and litigate on substantially even terms, North Carolina law authorizes the court to award reasonable attorney’s fees to a dependent spouse for attorney’s fees incurred in pursuing the postseparation support and alimony claims. This means that if you are the supporting spouse, you could be required to pay the dependent spouse’s attorney’s fees, as well as your own.
To be eligible for an award of attorney’s fees, the court must make a determination that a spouse is dependent and entitled to postseparation support or alimony. The award for attorney’s fees is further premised upon the determination that the dependent spouse is unable to defray the expenses of the action.
The trial court has a great deal of latitude in determining whether an award of attorney’s fees is appropriate, and the amount of attorney’s fees that should be awarded in spousal support claims. As such, there is no guarantee that a dependent spouse will be reimbursed for any or all attorney’s fees. North Carolina law does not authorize the trial court to award attorney’s fees in claims for equitable distribution of marital property. The criteria for awards of attorney’s fees in child custody and child support cases will be addressed in a separate article.
The payment of attorney’s fees can sometimes be a burden for both parties. Regardless of whether you are pursuing a claim for postseparation support and/or alimony, or the party defending such claims, you will benefit from having the experience of a skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney advocating on your behalf.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.