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Requesting an order for your spouse to pay your lawyer's fees

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2021

How do I ask the court to order my spouse to help pay for my lawyer in my divorce case?

You can ask the court to order your spouse to help pay your lawyer’s fees. You will need to show that the judge that:

  1. You do not have enough money to pay your lawyer's fees. And

  2. Your spouse does have enough money to pay your lawyer’s fees.

Most lawyers charge a retainer fee when you hire them. The Probate and Family Court can order your spouse to pay some or all of the fees your lawyer charges in your divorce case.

You can be the plaintiff or the defendant in your case and still ask the court to order your spouse to pay your lawyer’s fees.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is a payment in advance. Your lawyer may ask you for a retainer to pay for:

  • their services, as well as
  • expenses and costs in your case.

If your lawyer spends all of the retainer, they may ask you for more money as your case goes forward. They should give you a receipt with a detailed account that shows everything they spent your money on.

How do I ask the court to order my spouse to pay my lawyer’s fees?

File a motion and a proposed order with the court. 

  • The motion asks for the order.
  • The proposed order tells the court the order you need.

You must also show the court you cannot afford to pay for your lawyer and your spouse can. Use the Probate and Family Court’s Financial Statement to show the court the state of your finances and your spouse’s

1. Get the form you can use and the instructions for filling it out:

2. Fill out a Financial Statement. See How to fill out a Financial Statement

Important: If the court is impounding your address and phone number, write “Impounded” in the spaces for your address and phone number.

3. Make 2 copies of each document. One copy is for you.

4. Drop the original documents off at the court or mail them to the Court.

5. Serve your spouse or their lawyer with the documents and a Notice and Request for Financial Statement.

How do I serve my spouse with the motion?

Serve your spouse by delivering the documents to them or their lawyer, in-person or by mail. Some courts may allow you to serve your spouse by email if you get permission. Call the court and ask.

Send:

  • your filled-in Motion for spouse to pay lawyer’s fee,
  • the proposed order,
  • the Notice and Request for Financial Statement, and
  • a blank Financial Statement.

Note: You can send your spouse your filled-out Financial Statement at the same time you serve the motion or you can send it to them after. Be sure they get your Financial Statement at least 2 business days before the hearing.

What happens at the hearing?

On the day of the hearing, go to the assigned courtroom. Be prepared to tell the judge why you need them to order your spouse to pay your lawyer’s fees.

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