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Attorneys Fees in a Georgia Divorce

by Meriwether & Tharp LLP

According to O.C.G.A. § 19-6-2, you can be awarded attorney's fees in a divorce, but the award of attorney's fees is ultimately decided by the judge assigned in your case. After the judge hears testimony from both you and your spouse, he or she will look at the facts of the case and base his or her decision on one factor - the financial circumstances of both parties in a divorce. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-2(a)(1). This is similar to the award of alimony in a divorce case because the judge will look at both parties' incomes and decide on one party's ability or inability to pay attorney's fees and the other party's need for attorney's fees. Even though you may ask for attorney's fees, there is no guarantee that the judge will actually grant attorney's fees in your case.

If the judge awards attorney's fees in your divorce, the judge will sign a Final Order showing the amount of attorney's fees that your spouse is required to pay. One of the disadvantages about the judge awarding attorney's fees in your case is that amount of attorney's fees that the judge awards in his Final Order may or may not reflect the total amount of attorney's fees that you incurred in your divorce according to § 19-6-2(a)(2). The judge could actually award an amount less than what you incurred.

When the judge is determining the amount of attorney's fees, he or she may look at several factors. The judge may review the invoices from both you and your spouse's attorneys and determine if the amount that you incurred is fair. When reviewing the invoices, the judge may look at the hourly rates of staff at your law firm, such as the attorney, associate attorney, and/or paralegal working on your case, as well as the charges that you incurred as compared to those hourly rates and charges that your spouse incurred from the opposing law firm. As we mentioned previously in this blog, it is difficult to determine whether someone will be awarded attorney's fees since the award is based on the sole discretion of the judge and because each divorce case and each judge is different, it is difficult to determine whether he or she will award attorney's fees in your particular divorce case.

The exact statutory authorization for attorney's fees under the Official Code of Georgia is:
  § 19-6-2. Attorney's fees; when granted; grant of final judgment; how enforced; action by attorney
     (a) The grant of attorney's fees as a part of the expenses of litigation, made at any time during the pendency of the litigation, whether the action is for alimony, divorce and alimony, or contempt of court arising out of either an alimony case or a divorce and alimony case, including but not limited to contempt of court orders involving property division, child custody, and child visitation rights, shall be:
     (1) Within the sound discretion of the court, except that the court shall consider the financial circumstances of both parties as a part of its determination of the amount of attorney's fees, if any, to be allowed against either party; and
     (2) A final judgment as to the amount granted, whether the grant is in full or on account, which may be enforced by attachment for contempt of court or by writ of fieri facias, whether the parties subsequently reconcile or not.
     (b) Nothing contained in this Code section shall be construed to mean that attorney's fees shall not be awarded at both the temporary hearing and the final hearing.

The law firm of Meriwether & Tharp was established in 1998 in Norcross, Georgia by partners Patrick L. Meriwether and Robert L. Tharp. In 2000, the offices were relocated from Norcross to Alpharetta, Georgia and the firm began expanding its professional staff and focusing its practice on family and business law matters, including divorce, contempt, and modification actions. At Meriwether & Tharp our experienced family law attorneys recognize that domestic troubles can be emotionally and financially taxing. Our lawyers provide personal, individualized legal services, covering the full spectrum of family law issues.

They can be contacted by phone at (678) 879-9000 or
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