This question comes up a lot when I meet with potential new clients for the first time: How can I get my spouse to pay (or reimburse me for) the fees that I am going to have to pay to my attorney? California law allows for a court to order one spouse to contribute to the other spouse’s attorney’s fees via Family Code Section 2030:
(a) (1) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation of the parties, and in any proceeding subsequent to entry of a related judgment, the court shall ensure that each party has access to legal representation, including access early in the proceedings, to preserve each party’s rights by ordering, if necessary based on the income and needs assessments, one party, except a governmental entity, to pay to the other party, or to the other party’s attorney, whatever amount is reasonably necessary for attorney’s fees and for the cost of maintaining or defending the proceeding during the pendency of the proceeding.
The law is a long-winded way of saying: Yes, if you have the need, and your spouse has the ability to pay, a court can order him/her to pay for your fees.
One important item to remember: This is not a fault-based law. It does not matter who initiated the divorce, or who is at fault for the ending of the marriage. It is a simple question of whether the asking spouse lacks the funds to pay for his/her own attorney, and if so, then does the other spouse have a source of funds he/she can access to pay the fees? If the answer to both questions is yes, then a court will likely make an order concerning fees.