Who Should Pay the Attorney Fees?

Many people believe that the person who controls the money in the marriage should also pay the attorney fees when they are the one to ask for a divorce. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to divorce and divorce court in Nevada.

In Nevada, the laws of divorce court are very clear. Nevada is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the judge in charge of the case will not award any attorney fees to one party because the other one asked for the divorce. Nevada courts will not look for fault or blame when it comes to a divorce case. Even major issues, such as adultery, excessive gambling debts, felony charges and more are not grounds for having to pay all of the attorney fees. The court simply cannot award fees this way. However, while Nevada is a no-fault state, one may still come across certain circumstances that will get a court to order the other party to take care of all or at least part of the legal fees incurred during the divorce case.

Bad Faith Acts

In some cases, one party may cause the divorce proceedings to drag. They may refuse to respond to discovery, make false claims against the other, or make frivolous motions. These acts could cause the divorce proceedings to go on longer than they should, incurring more and more legal fees as they go. In this case, the court could order the party responsible for the delay to pay additional legal fees. Acting in bad faith, or being unreasonable, doesn’t have anything to do with who is at-fault for the split.

Income Differences

In many divorce situations, one spouse may make a lot more than the other at their job. If this is the case, the community property laws of the state will come into play. Under these laws, each spouse is entitled to half of the income the other party earns. For example, if the first spouse earns $20,000 and the second earns $80,000, the court recognizes that together they earn $100,000, which will come out to $50,000 each.

The spouse who makes less may ask the court to order the other one to pay the legal fees of the case. If so, the court will first examine the financial situation of each spouse and then make their decision. This usually involves living expenses and attorney fees. Sergeant v. Sergeant was the leading case for this type of action.


Harry Sergeant, who was 81 years old at the time, was worth $2,000,000 in 1972. At this point in time, the wife commonly stayed home while the husband went to work outside of the home. During his divorce to his wife Matilda, the court felt that she had the right to be able to hire an attorney that was on the same level as his. Matilda did not work and did not have any access to her husband’s money. Without this additional money, Matilda would not have been able to hire a lawyer who was competent in fighting for the spousal support she deserved, giving her soon-to-be ex-husband an unfair advantage in court.

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