Many Greenville, SC residents who are headed for divorce worry about the costs of hiring an attorney. It’s always best to have legal representation, but it’s easy to get discouraged when considering the expense. Fortunately, attorney’s fees are available in many domestic cases in South Carolina. Although not guaranteed, it is possible to have the opposing party pay your legal bills.
South Carolina domestic law statutes authorize attorney’s fees in certain cases. Section 20-3-130 allows a judge to order either party to pay attorney’s fees in a divorce action. This statute also authorizes court orders to pay expert witness fees, investigation fees, and related costs. Meanwhile, Section 63-3-530 allows the court to award attorney’s fees in all other types of domestic litigation.
Bear in mind that these statutes only authorize family courts to award attorney’s fees. The decision is in the judge’s discretion. In considering whether to award fees, a Greenville, SC judge must first decide whether a party is entitled to them. In most cases, each party will be expected to foot their own bills. There are several situations in which a judge may decide to order one party to pay the other party’s fees. For instance:
1. Where one side clearly wins or loses the case. An example would be a case that should never have been tried to begin with. Having a Greenville, SC family law attorney is the best way to ensure that baseless actions are not filed.
2. Where one side runs up legal bills without justification. During the case, one party may take action which unnecessarily increases the other party’s fees and costs. An attorney’s fees award helps reimburse the innocent party and discourages future misconduct.
3. Where there is great disparity of income or financial resources between the parties. This helps level the playing field and ensures equal access to the Greenville, SC courts.
The court analyzes four specific factors to make its attorney’s fees decision:
1. Each party’s ability to pay his or her own fees
2. The respective financial condition of each party
3. The effect of the fee on each party’s standard of living
4. The beneficial results obtained by the attorney
Many parties in Greenville, SC want to use attorney’s fees to punish a blameworthy party. However, one specific factor excluded from the court’s consideration is fault in causing a divorce. Of course, judges are still humans at the end of the day. A judge may find a way to award fees against a spouse whose conduct facilitated the breakdown of the marriage.
If the court decides to award attorney’s fees, it must next determine the amount of fees that should be awarded. The judge will take into account several factors:
1. The nature, extent, and difficulty of the case
2. The time that was devoted to the case
3. The professional standing of counsel
4. Contingency of compensation
5. The beneficial results obtained
6. Customary legal fees for similar services
Parties to divorce actions in Greenville, SC often associate attorney’s fees awards with trials. However, a judge can order partial fees to be paid at a temporary hearing. There are often cases where one party has less income than the other, which makes continuing litigation more difficult. For the case to keep moving forward, a judge may order the higher income party to pay the other.
Talk to Your Greenville, SC Family Law Attorney About Your Options
Every attorney and law firm has a different fee structure. Although family law cases can be costly, it can cost much more if you do not have experienced legal counsel. Call Greenville Family Law today to discuss the options you may have in your particular situation.