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Attorney Fees in a Minnesota Divorce

Tired of Paying for the “Pleasure” of Divorcing?

How to Recover Attorney Fees in Minnesota Divorce cases

For a variety of reasons, most states in America follow what is called the American Rule regarding the payment of each party’s attorney fees in litigation:  Which means each party must pay their own attorney fees.  This is in contrast to the English Rule, which generally requires the losing party to pay the winning party’s attorney fees.  The American Rule, however, can bring hours of frustration (and a huge expense) when your ex makes yet another motion seeking to be awarded some obscure item of property and you realize you will soon be forking over even more money to have your attorney respond to that motion.

However, states which follow the American Rule generally have several exceptions to that rule.  In Minnesota, those exceptions can include attorney fees incurred by a party in a divorce or child support proceeding (i.e., there’s hope!), but these are only available in fairly limited circumstances.

Necessary Fees

A court can require either the husband or wife to pay the other party’s attorney fees if the court finds that is necessary for he other party to fully assert his or her rights during the divorce.  “Necessary” means that the party receiving an award of fees does not have the means to pay those fees.  Further, the other party must actually have the means to pay the fees.  The court must also find that awarding fees will not contribute unnecessarily to the length or expense of the proceedings; that is, it can’t award fees, for example, to the wife to allow her to pursue an argument that has little chance of success and would only lead to an even more drawn-out battle.

Conduct-Based Fees

There is some scope for an award of attorney fees even if the award isn’t necessary.  A court can award attorney fees in favor of either the husband or wife if it finds that the other party has unreasonably contributed to the length or expense of the proceeding.  This wording of the law is fairly broad; hands up all who think their ex has done this!  Fees awarded in this way can include costs and disbursements, which means you can be awarded reimbursement for items such as court filing fees.

Sadly, conduct-based fees can’t be awarded based on your ex’s conduct outside of litigation, no matter how childish or despicable they have been.  However, on the bright side, if your ex’s poor conduct does extend to the litigation, the court may order conduct-based attorney fees without consideration of your ex’s ability to pay.

While the the law allows for recovery, you should know that outside the metro area it is much less common to get attorney fees during a divorce.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-205-9736.

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Comments 2
  1. Hi Jason, is there a circumstance where I as a person can seek reimbursement from the actual opposing attorney/ firm directly for their lack of propriety to the case? It has caused me to pay thousands of dollars to my attorney who excessively had to make the opposing attorney just do her job. Any suggestions or direction would be helpful.

    Thank you.

    1. Excellent question! The short answer is…no. Generally speaking you can only get conduct based attorney fees from the other side UNLESS the lawyer did something so outrageous and perhaps unethical. Usually the lawyer is just considered an agent of the client and if the client hires an inefficient or well, plain bad, lawyer you can’t do much about it.

      Good luck!

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