Attorney’s fees can quickly add up when you are going through a divorce, and not only do you have to deal with all of the stress of splitting assets and dividing property, you’ll now have to deal with the financial burden that results from your attorney’s fees. However, if you are a dependent spouse, you may not have to pay your attorney’s fees at all. This article will discuss who is considered a dependent spouse and who is eligible to recover attorney’s fees with an award for alimony.

A dependent spouse refers to a spouse who is substantially dependent on another spouse for both maintenance and support. Under North Carolina law, a dependent spouse who is entitled to alimony or post-separation support may also be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees. The court must also determine that a dependent spouse lacks sufficient means to cover the cost of litigation. To make this determination, the court will consider the dependent spouse’s ability to pay and disposable income.

A request for attorney’s fees must be made prior to the pending alimony hearing, either in a pleading or on motion. If you are successful, you will be entitled to recover fees related to the time your attorney allocated to you in association with your alimony claim only. If your spouse appeals your alimony claim, you will also be entitled to the fees incurred from your attorney working on your appeal. If you already have an alimony award, you can seek attorney’s fess if you file to modify your order. In determining the final amount to be awarded for attorney’s fees, a judge will look to several factors to ensure that the amount is reasonable. These factors include: the nature and scope of the legal services; the skill and time required; and the usual fees charged for such services.

You will receive your award of attorney’s fees in the same manner as alimony. Alimony and attorney’s fees for alimony can be paid by lump sum, periodic payments, income withholding, or by transfer of property. Should your ex fail to comply with an order requiring her to pay attorney’s fees, she may be found in contempt and is subject to remedies such as arrest and garnishment of wages.

One issue that can prevent you from obtaining attorney’s fees is a prenuptial or separation agreement. These agreements are essentially contracts, and you are generally bound by what you have agreed to.  If your prenuptial or separation agreement prohibits you from seeking attorney’s fees, then you will not be awarded such relief.

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