A common question asked by clients is: Do I have to pay Attorney Fees if my spouse has a Legal Aid Attorney? Well, the answer is “it depends.” This is a common answer to a lot of family law related questions; however, it is true. If your spouse qualifies for legal aid, and his/her attorney does the work pro bono (free) it is still an expense to the Legal Aid Society to provide that pro bono service. If the reason for that service is because you (or your client) who has private counsel, are withholding funds, or have the ability to pay, you (or your client) may be required to contribute toward the “cost” of that pro bono attorney. Does your spouse get that money? No, of course not, the Legal Aid Society will receive those funds in order to keep the program going for future clients in need of legal aid. If you (or your client) do not have the ability to pay for attorney fees for your spouse, and that is a finding of the court, you will not be ordered to pay fees. It is on a case by case basis, and the need and the ability to pay analysis still applies
Pursuant to the Bar’s guidelines, you may not charge the client a fee for your services, and you are encouraged to seek a fee and all costs from the opposing party. See Love v. Love, 370 So.2d 1231 (4th DCA 1979). Attorneys participate in pro bono work for pro bono hours, so if you are successful in receiving fees and you keep them in lieu of returning them to the Legal Aid society, you will not receive your pro bono credit for that case.
For more information on your Family Law (paternity, divorce, dissolution) case if there is or is not a Legal Aid Society attorney representing your spouse, you can contact the firm of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates to assist you with navigating through that type of situation. We will give you straightforward legal advice, we do not candy coat the issues, and you may not like the response you receive; however, knowledge is power and just hearing what you want may not help you to a resolution in your case.