Who Pays Divorce Costs in Massachusetts?

In a Massachusetts divorce, each side will typically pay for their own expenses and legal costs. Known as the “American Rule,” this practice is widely accepted and applied in Massachusetts courts. But there are some exceptions to the American Rule that you should be aware of.

Statutes Give Judges Discretion to Decide

Although many courts apply the American Rule in divorce cases, judges are not required to follow this practice. According to Massachusetts law, courts have the discretion to award costs and expenses to either party in a divorce suit. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, §38.) This includes attorneys’ fees. 

Massachusetts courts often use this discretion to make one party cover all the costs in cases where that party has:

  • Obstructed the progress of the divorce (by not providing timely paperwork, etc.)
  • Has been dishonest or caused undue delay
  • Failed to pay child support or other court-ordered expenses

Judges may also exercise the court’s statutory authority if they think it would be fair to do so under the circumstances. A separate statute allows courts to require one party to pay funds to be used to cover the other party’s legal fees while the divorce case is in progress. 

How Often Do Courts Order One Party to Pay Divorce Costs in Massachusetts?

Most judges are fairly reserved when it comes to exercising their statutory authority to order one party to pay for divorce in Massachusetts, even on a temporary basis.

Generally, judges do not like to convey that there is a “winner” or “loser” in divorce litigation. They also do not want to set a precedent that applies to future cases, which could lead to unfair advantages and prolonged litigation. Thus, courts in Massachusetts have usually only ordered fees and expenses to be paid by one party in divorce in extreme circumstances. However, because judges have such broad authority to order otherwise, this trend could change at any time.

Will You Have to Pay for Divorce in Massachusetts?

If both parties in your divorce are acting in reasonably good-faith and cooperating with the court, it is likely that you will each pay your own divorce expenses.

If you are concerned that your soon-to-be-ex is manipulating the system, failing to pay court-ordered child support or other expenses, or is intentionally causing delays in your case, it is a good idea to discuss the situation with a knowledgeable attorney. It may be possible to persuade the court that the other spouse should be required to pay the costs and fees associated with the divorce.

Contact a Massachusetts Divorce Attorney Today

If you need help with a divorce in Massachusetts or want to know more about this process, contact the experienced divorce attorneys of Koiles Pratt Family Law Group today. To schedule your first confidential consultation, call us at 978-744-7774.

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