Attorney Fee Awards in Minnesota Divorce Court

There is a second way that litigants can fund the legal fees associated with divorce: from their spouse. Under Minnesota law, fee awards may be either: (1) need-based; or (2) fault-based.

Need-Based Fee Awards 

In order to successfully request a need-based fee award, a litigant must show:

  • The fees are necessary for the good faith assertion of their rights;
  • The party from whom the legal fees are being sought has the means to pay fees; and
  • The party seeking legal fees does not have the means to pay their fees.

Fault-Based Fee Award: Bad Faith

Fault-based legal fees are awarded when a court finds that one of the parties has unnecessarily contributed to a delay in the proceedings, and therefore, an increase in legal fees.  For instance, legal fees may be awarded when:

  • One of the parties has failed to provide necessary discovery responses;
  • One of the parties has engaged in frequent filing of repeated or frivolous motions;
  • One of the parties has frequently failed to appear in court;
  • One of the parties has frequently failed to file relevant court documents;
  • One of the parties has damaged property, or incurred unnecessary debt in the other party’s name; or
  • There have been incidents of harassment or abuse on the part of the party being asked to pay. 

A motion to the Court is necessary to recover fees and costs for bad faith conduct.

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