In 2017, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee, his wife of five years, filed for divorce. Since then, the couple has struggled to resolve the matter amicably. Not surprisingly, most of the disputes involve money.
Most recently, Drake-Lee has asked the court to order Williams to pay her legal bills. Williams has responded and ask the court to tell her that this is not a free ride. He believes that she hasn’t made the effort necessary to find a job and cover her legal expenses on her own. Now Court will look into the matter and determine whether or not Williams should pay over $200,000 to cover the cost of Drake-Lee attorneys and investigative expenses.
One Spouse Can be Required to Cover All Legal Bills in a Divorce
Divorce can be expensive. When couples split up, they may not always have the same financial resources. This is often true if one spouse stopped working after marriage to support the other or take care of the family. When it comes time to get divorced, do you less her earning spouse may not be able to afford an attorney of his or her own. California law provides some remedies to level the playing field.
Need-Based Attorney’s Fees
Under Family Code 2030, a court can order a need-based award. In other words, if one spouse can’t afford an attorney, the other can be required to foot the bill. Courts will consider several factors when deciding whether or not a need-based award is appropriate.
- Each spouse’s ability to pay attorney’s fees
- Assets and liabilities of each spouse
- Current financial expenses and obligations
- Effort to find work and generate an income
- Disparity between each spouse’s resources.
Basically, a court will look at one spouse’s financial situation and compare it to the other’s. After considering all of the information, it may order a need-based award if:
- Requiring one spouse to cover his or her own legal bills would create an undue burden, and
- One spouse has financial resources that would allow them to cover some or all of the other spouse’s legal fees.
Here, Williams claims that Drake-Lee could afford her own legal fees if she made the effort to get a job and make some money. He argues that she is merely relying on the hundreds of thousands of dollars he paid every month in support. The court will take this argument into account.
Bad Conduct Awards
Courts don’t just look at the financial situation of the parties when considering a request for attorney’s fees. Judges will also consider the conduct of the spouses involved. Under California law, courts do have the ability to award attorney’s fees if one spouse engages in bad conduct.
Bad conduct can mean physical abuse or simply trying to drag out the divorce to make it unnecessarily expensive for the other. The state wants divorces resolved as quickly as possible. If there’s any evidence to suggest that one spouse is dragging their feet to put their spouse in an uncomfortable financial situation, the court might step in.