Can I get a cost-free divorce if, say, my spouse is verbally and emotionally abusive?
In a sense, yes, but not because of a finding that your spouse “verbally and emotionally abused” your and (usually) only if:
- the court waives your filing fee (which usually occurs only if you can prove you’re too poor to afford the fee, and the court makes you provide proof of your income and financial resources available to you as part of the process of determining whether you are poor enough to qualify to have the filing fee(s) waived)
- the court does not order you to pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees that he/she incurred in the divorce case (and yes, courts can—but do not always, in fact in my jurisdiction they rarely—order a spouse to pay the other spouse’s attorney’s fees incurred in the divorce action; see Utah Code § 30-3-3); and
- you have a pro bono attorney who charged you nothing for his/her services (such attorneys do exist but are scarcer than hen’s teeth, so if you’re hoping to find an attorney to handle your divorce case pro bono, plan on being disappointed); or
- the court order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees that you incurred in the divorce action AND your spouse actually complies with the court’s order; or
- a generous benefactor pays your attorney’s fees for you.
Bottom line: I am not aware of any jurisdiction that would order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees simply because the court found that your spouse was “verbally and emotionally abusive” during the marriage. Attorney’s fees are awarded to ensure a spouse has the means to litigate a divorce action on a level playing field, they are not awarded as a punitive measure.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277