“Early needs-based fee awards: Courts should give careful attention to making early needs-based attorney fee awards rather than deferring the issue to trial. This would minimize the imbalance in ability to hire counsel between litigants in a family law case. When a request for needs-based attorney fees is made, the court should make findings regarding whether the award of fees is necessary, whether there is a disparity in access to funds or income, and whether one party is able to pay. If the findings demonstrate need, disparity in access, and ability to pay, the court should make an order awarding attorney fees.” Elkins Final Report Pg. 60.
Prior to these recommendations the court would often defer the issue of attorney’s fees and costs until the time of trial. Now, the court can make an attorney fee order at the onset of the case when a party demonstrates that there is a need, there is a disparity in income, and the other party has the ability to pay.
How will this affect you? If you are the party that does not have the ability to pay your attorney’s fees you will be able to retain and maintain legal counsel throughout the proceedings. If you are the party with the ability to pay the other party’s fees you will be ordered to do so sooner and most likely at the first hearing.
You may want to contact an experienced attorney to discuss your rights.