Can Your Spouse Foot the Bill for Your Divorce Attorney?

Nicola Miller
By: Nicola Miller
PublishedAug 28, 2023
2 minute read

One unfortunate reason people stay in unhappy marriages is money, or the lack of it. After all, the average divorce costs around $13,000 — and that figure can double with child support and custody matters thrown in. The cost can seem prohibitive, especially if you’re the lower-earning spouse. However, Colorado provides a way for some people to get their divorce attorney fees paid. You can file a motion with the court that requests your ex front the money to pay for your divorce attorney.

It’s Called a ‘Rose Motion’ 

Colorado law allows courts to order higher-earning spouses to pay anticipated attorney fees or expert costs to lower-earning partners during divorce. Such an order is based on the financial disparity between the spouses and on each one’s ability to pay.

What it means: If one party in a divorce earns a lot more money than the other, they might need to help pay the other’s fees. To request attorney fees and expert costs, you must ask your lawyer to file a “Rose Motion.”

The motion got its name from a 2006 Colorado Appeals Court case, In re Marriage of Rose. In Rose, the higher-earning husband unsuccessfully disputed the court’s ability to award “prospective” attorney fees to his estranged wife. It’s been called a “Rose Motion” ever since.

Don’t Be Manipulated into Not Hiring an Attorney 

First, don’t buy into the misconception that hiring an attorney means you foot the bill. Attorney fees are covered by the marital estate, which is jointly owned by both spouses. It doesn’t matter whose bank the money is in, as long as it’s part of the marriage.

Emotional Threats 

Sometimes, the higher-earning spouse will use threats to keep the lower earner from hiring their own lawyer. This can especially be the case if they don’t want to pay for two lawyers or are trying to control the divorce settlement. They’ve already hired an attorney for themselves, and don’t want the other to have equal representation. Such emotional manipulation tactics might sound like:

  • “You’re making this a lot harder and more painful for everybody.”
  • “Fine, get your own fancy attorney. There goes the kids’ college funds.”
  • “I was trying to be fair, but it seems you want a war.”

Pay no mind to these manipulation tactics. Stand your ground. Prioritizing your rights during a divorce is the best way to protect your and your children’s interests. You need your own lawyer for that.

Meritless Claims: Another Way to Request Attorney Fees 

Now and then, one party in a contentious divorce case goes too far. When they do, they create an opportunity for you to recover more of your attorney fees.

According to Colorado Revised Statute 13-17-102, if a party makes unjustified, frivolous, groundless, or vexatious claims in court, the judge can order them to pay the other party’s legal fees.

Does Fault Have Any Bearing on Who Pays Attorney Fees? 

It does not. In Colorado, fault doesn’t impact a judge’s choice to grant attorney fees. Even if your spouse’s actions caused the divorce, it doesn’t mean they’ll have to pay the fees.

You Need a Divorce Attorney 

Ultimately, choosing a divorce attorney is a wiser investment than handling it solo. Robinson & Henry’s lawyers understand the full breadth and depth of Colorado family law. Let us put our expertise to work for you. Call 303-688-0944 for a case assessment.

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