How Do I Pay For A Divorce If My Spouse Controls The Money?
One of the most pressing concerns for many individuals is the question of financing legal representation, especially when the spouse controls the majority of the family finances. This situation can feel daunting, but there are several avenues you can explore to secure the services of a divorce lawyer. At Cohen and Winters, we understand these challenges and are here to guide you through this difficult time.
1. Understanding Your Financial Rights in a Marriage
Firstly, it’s important to recognize that, under New Hampshire law, the ultimate division of all marital assets is up to the Judge, regardless of whether those assets are titled jointly or in the name of one spouse only. Moreover, the starting presumption is an equal division, although the Judge can vary from that for a wide range of reasons. In a divorce proceeding, each party is entitled to a fair share of the marital estate, which includes both assets and debts. Having said that, until the divorce is final, if one spouse controls most or all of the assets, that creates a problem for the other spouse. While the other spouse may have a good argument for an equal share of those assets, it can take months or years for a divorce to be final. If no quick settlement can be reached, and especially if the other spouse takes advantage of the situation by intentionally creating delay, it can cause severe financial strain for the spouse whose name is not on the assets.
2. Temporary Orders for Legal Fees
In New Hampshire, you can petition the court for a temporary order that requires your spouse to pay for temporary alimony. That temporary alimony can then be used to pay for legal fees. This is particularly relevant in cases where there is a significant disparity in income or financial resources between spouses. The court will consider various factors, including each spouse’s ability to pay, the complexity of the case, and the conduct of the parties.
If your spouse dominates possession of assets, you can also ask the court to order the marital funds held solely in the name of one spouse be made available to you for living expenses, including payment of legal fees.
3. Accessing Joint Accounts and Assets
If you have joint bank accounts or other jointly held assets, you are legally entitled to use a portion of these funds for necessary expenses, including legal fees for a divorce. It’s advisable to consult with a lawyer before withdrawing any funds, to ensure that your actions are within legal bounds and won’t negatively impact your case. Many lawyers will advise clients, prior to a divorce being filed, to withdraw half of the funds in the joint account into an individual account, leaving the other half for the spouse. While this often is justifiable, it should not construed as universally applicable advice as individual circumstance vary.
4. Borrowing from Friends or Family
While not always ideal, borrowing money from close friends or family members can be a temporary solution to finance your legal fees. This approach can provide the necessary funds to secure legal representation at the outset of the divorce process. Alternatively, some family members are in a financial position to pay the attorney’s fees directly.
5. Personal Loans or Credit Lines
Another option is to pay with a credit card, take out a personal loan, open a new line of credit. While this approach involves assuming debt, it can provide immediate access to funds for legal fees. It’s important to consider the long-term financial implications of this choice and to discuss it with your attorney.
6. Selling Personal Property
In some cases, selling personal property or assets that are solely in your name (such as a car, jewelry, or other valuables) can generate funds for legal fees. However, this should be a carefully considered decision, and it’s advisable to discuss it with your attorney to understand how it might affect your overall financial picture in the divorce proceedings. In New Hampshire, there is a standard court order in all divorce cases prohibiting selling or transferring property except for specific approved reasons, including for “reasonable and ordinary living expenses”. While payment of legal fees might fall into this exception, there is no clear rule saying so and therefore, property should only be sold after consulting with a lawyer. On the other hand, if the property is sold prior to the divorce being filed, when no order is in place, this is probably a safe plan, although we still suggest consulting with a lawyer before doing so. All financial transactions are subject to scrutiny after-the-fact by the opposing lawyer, and the judge.
7. Prioritize and Budget for Legal Expenses
Understanding the importance of skilled legal representation, it may be necessary to reevaluate your budget and prioritize your spending to allocate funds for legal fees. This could include reducing discretionary spending or postponing less urgent expenses.
8. Strategic Legal Planning
At Cohen & Winters, we believe in strategic legal planning to ensure that your resources are utilized effectively. Our team will work with you to develop a legal strategy that aligns with your financial capabilities, focusing on the most critical aspects of your case to optimize outcomes while managing costs.
9. Understanding the Investment in Your Future
Investing in a competent divorce attorney is an investment in your future. Skilled legal representation can significantly affect the outcome of your divorce, influencing aspects like property division, child custody, and alimony. Securing the right legal counsel can help protect your interests and set a positive course for your post-divorce life.
Navigating the financial aspects of securing a divorce lawyer when your spouse controls the money is undeniably challenging. However, it is important to remember that you have rights and options. At Cohen & Winters, we are committed to helping you through this process, ensuring that you receive fair representation and a just outcome in your divorce proceedings.
We encourage you to reach out to us for a consultation. Our experienced New Hampshire divorce lawyers will listen to your situation, advise on the best course of action, and stand by your side throughout the divorce process. Remember, taking the first step towards securing your legal representation is a critical move towards ensuring a fair and equitable resolution to your divorce. Let Cohen and Winters be your partner and guide through this challenging time.
How Do I Pay For A Divorce If My Spouse Controls The Money?