In many marriages, one spouse will be the primary breadwinner. If a couple is happily married, a significant disparity in income is often not a cause for concern, but if the couple decides to divorce, the lesser earning spouse is at a financial disadvantage and may wonder if he or she can afford the cost of an attorney. The law aims to protect the rights of all individuals, even individuals that cannot afford an attorney. Thus, in many divorce cases, the court will order one spouse to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. If you intend to end your marriage, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful Tennessee divorce attorney to discuss whether your spouse may be responsible for your legal fees.
Responsibility for Legal Fees
Like many states, Tennessee follows the “American Rule,” which traditionally requires a party to a lawsuit to pay his or her own attorney’s fees unless a statutory or contractual provision states otherwise. State v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 18 S.W.3d 186, 194 (Tenn. 2000). Nevertheless, Tennessee statutory law vests trial courts with the discretion to award one party his or her attorney’s fees in the context of a divorce proceeding, and some trial judges may deem such an award to be a form of alimony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-103(c).