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The payment of legal fees and court costs in a divorce

When a couple divorces in Maryland, the court may order either spouse to pay the other the cost, or reasonable and necessary expense, of either defending or prosecuting the proceeding. The expenses associated with a divorce proceeding are court costs, legal fees and suit money. When making a determination, the court will evaluate two factors.

One factor is the financial needs and resources of each spouse. The other is whether there was significant justification for either defending or prosecuting the matter. In other words, the court will decide whether the court action was frivolous in nature.

If the court awards legal fees, it may either enter a judgment in the lawyer's favor or order that the award be given directly to the lawyer. If the court finds that the prosecution or defense of the action was not substantially justified, it may order the party who unjustifiably prosecuted or defended the action to pay the reasonable and necessary expenses.

A spouse with limited financial means may be concerned about the expense involved with hiring legal counsel. However, it is possible that the spouse with greater financial means will be ordered to pay for the other spouse's legal fees. A Maryland lawyer with a background in family law may work on behalf of a spouse to protect his or her financial interests throughout the divorce process. For example, some spouses try to hide assets to avoid dividing them fairly. A lawyer may be able to discover hidden assets with the help of a forensic accountant and make sure that they are divided equitably between the parties in the divorce agreement.

Source: General Assembly of Maryland, "Article - Family Law", November 17, 2014

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