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What if I Cannot Afford an Attorney?

The cost of hiring an attorney one of the first thing that may come to mind if you are going through a family law case. You may also be concerned about your ability to navigate the legal process without an attorney, and at what cost that may come to you and your family if you are do not hire legal help. But what if you cannot afford an attorney for yourself?

If you are concerned that your former partner or co-parent will have the financial resources to hire a lawyer but you will not, you may be able to request that your attorneys fees be paid by the party with a larger income or greater resources.

In the Colorado Revised Statutes, Section 14-10-119, the Court “may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under this article, and for attorney’s fees, including sums for legal services rendered and costs incurred prior to the commencement of the proceeding or after entry of judgment.”

If you fear that the other party may have the ability to “out-litigate” you because they have more money than you, you are able to make a request that they pay for your attorney’s fees during the pending litigation. This request can be made at any point during your case, but you may want to consider making the request proactively and before you have spent the money on a lawyer, because it is not guaranteed that your spouse will have to reimburse you. Instead, you may consider filing a motion requesting prospective attorney fees, so that you do not have to worry about your ability to keep your legal representation.

In the Colorado Court of Appeals case In re Marriage of Rose, the Court stated that the orders for prospective fees and costs are “a tool that may be used, in the sound exercise of the trial court’s discretion, to diminish the advantage that one spouse may have over the other in litigation because of their respective financial circumstances,” In Re Marriage of Rose, 134 P.3d at 562 (Colo. App. 2006). If you are unable to afford an attorney, but your spouse is in the position to spend endless amounts of money on litigation, you have the ability to ask that the other party pay for your attorney’s fees, so that you are on equal footing during litigation.

At GEM Family Law we believe that everyone deserves the same access to legal representation. If you feel that there is an imbalance in resources and that you are bound to be outlitigated by the other party in your family law case, our seasoned family law attorneys can help you explore your options during a free initial consultation.

Authored by: Chelsea Augelli, Associate Attorney