Ask for money to hire a lawyer

When you’re divorcing or legally separating, you can ask the judge to order your spouse or domestic partner to pay you money to hire a lawyer or attorney.  You can also do this in other family law cases, like a parentage case. You can ask the other parent to pay you to hire a lawyer.  This is called asking for attorney’s fees and costs.  

Before you start

If you can’t afford a lawyer, but your spouse or the other parent can, you can ask the court to order them to pay for you to hire a lawyer. 

The court can order this in cases when one spouse or parent has more money than the other. You can make this request before you hire a lawyer. If you've already hired a lawyer, talk to your lawyer about if you can get these fees.

The money isn’t to punish your spouse or the other parent or reward you, but to even the playing field so you both have access to a lawyer.  

The judge will consider a number of factors when you ask for attorney's fees

  • Your income and needs 
  • If one of you has more access to money 
  • If your spouse or the other parent can pay for both lawyer’s fees 

The judge can order your spouse or the other parent to pay for all or part of the costs 

Even if you have some money to pay for a lawyer, if the other person has a lot more money, the court can order them to help pay some of your fees.   

You can ask for more money later 

It can be hard to estimate how much a lawyer will cost.  You can ask just for how much you need to get the case started. Then, if you need more money later your lawyer can ask the judge to increase the amount. 

How to ask for attorney’s fees

  • Fill out the Request for Order form

    illustration of a person filling forms at home

    Use the Request for Order (form FL-300). Use this form to tell the court:  

    • What you want it to order   

    • Why it should order that way 

    A judge can only order your spouse or the other parent to pay a reasonable amount. To figure out what that might be, talk to a few lawyers to get an idea about how much it might cost to hire them. If a lawyer agrees to take your case, they may complete the forms for you. 

     

    The Petitioner is the person who started the family law case initially. The Respondent is the other spouse, domestic partner, or parent. For example, if you are filing this Request for Order but your spouse was the one who started the case at the very beginning, you are the Respondent. 

     

     

    Use the same form to ask for other orders. For example, if you also need a spousal or child support order, you may be able to use the same form to ask for attorney's fees and support. This saves you a filing fee. And, the court can decide both issues at the same time. Read about the other type of order to be sure you can ask for the order in this case.

     
  • Fill out three attachments

    1. Request for Attorney’s Fees and Costs Attachment (form FL-319

    1. Supporting Declaration for Attorney’s Fees and Costs Attachment (form FL-158

    1. Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (form FL-157) (even if you’re not asking for spousal or partner support, the court needs to know the information on this form to make an order for attorney’s fees.) 

    These forms ask about your financial situation and about how much money you need to hire a lawyer or what you’ve already paid a lawyer.

  • Fill out the Income and Expense Declaration

    Use the Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150). 

    This form asks about how much money you earn and how you spend your money. 

    You need to attach proof of your income from the past 2 months to the form. 

    Do not attach a copy of your last year’s taxes. Bring a copy to your hearing. 

    • Chat with an Expert About your Fl-150 Questions
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      We are offering live chat help with the Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150). Look for a “Chat With Us” button in the right bottom corner of your screen. If you don’t see it, disable any pop-up blockers on your browser.

  • Attach documents to support your case

    illustration of gathering documentation

    Sometimes it's important to have documents that support your case. You can attach or file these with your request so the judge can consider them at the hearing.

    • Examples of documents that support might include pay stubs or bills 
    • Black out any private information like a Social Security number or account numbers
    • If there is a witness (someone who saw or personally knows something), you can ask them to write and sign a statement that says what they know. Learn more about witness statements.

    If you don't have these ready now, you can file them later.

  • Make copies of your forms

    After you’ve filled out, signed, and dated both forms, make 2 copies of the forms.

  • File your forms

    members fo the public waiting in line to talk to the clerk

    To file your forms with the court:

    • Give the original and the 2 copies to the court clerk  

    • Pay a $60 fee (unless you have a fee waiver

    There may be other fees. For example, if you’re also asking to change child custody or visitation.  

    If these are the first papers you’ve filed in the case, there will be a $435-$450 “first paper” filing fee. If you can't afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver

    The clerk will:  

    • Stamp the forms 

    • Write a hearing date on the Request for Order form 

    • Keep the original form and return the copies to you 

    A judge will make a decision about your request at the hearing. 

    Yes, you can file by mail. Mail the original and 2 copies to the clerk. You need to include the filing fee and a self-addressed stamped envelope so the clerk can mail your copies back to you. If you do not include a self-addressed stamped envelope you will have to go to the courthouse to pick up your copies.  

    Some courts allow online filing (called e-file). You can find out if your court has online filing by visiting your court’s website.  

Request attorney's fees

What's next

Once you’ve filed the forms, the next step is to serve the forms to your spouse or the other parent. 

 

After you’ve served the papers, you can start to prepare for your court date.