I Was Ordered to Pay for My Wife’s Lawyer Fees. Can I Wipe Them Out if I File for Bankruptcy?

Divorce can be a war of attrition. The family court often requires the husband to pay the wife’s counsel fees, which could be $10,000 or higher. This can definitely take a toll on someone’s morale and pocket.

It’s common to hear about ex-husbands filing for bankruptcy after a divorce is over, and often the husband will list the wife’s lawyer fees as a debt on his bankruptcy schedules. Consequently, lawyer’s fees as a dis-chargeable debt in bankruptcy become a big issue. The key question is whether the counsel fee debt is declared as a support obligation or property settlement claim.

The California Bankruptcy Court recently declared obligation to pay spousal support and attorney fees as non-dischargeable pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §523(a)(5). Van Aken v. Van Aken, 2005 Fed. App.0001 (6th Cir. 2005).

If an ex-husband attempts to discharge a counsel fee award, it is imperative that the wife files an adversary proceeding with the Bankruptcy Court. This request calls for a Court hearing over the dispute, and the Court decides whether the counsel fee award is support and non-dischargeable. Likewise, the Bankruptcy Court could determine the counsel fee award was a form of equitable distribution that can be discharged. The Court could also order the payment terms be restructured. It is important to note that if a non-debtor spouse ignores a spouse’s bankruptcy filing, disastrous results could ensure. No objection typically means the debtor spouse will successfully discharge a counsel fee obligation. Call us for help with bankruptcy after divorce.

Would you like to discuss your legal matter?


Contact Us RECEPTION (877)509-5204

Our receptionist will assist in scheduling new and existing clients for all offices. For initial consultations we will ask you a few questions and then find the best time for you to talk to one of the lawyers that best fits your legal matter.

Call us or use the email form and we will follow up with you right away.


The Law Offices of Tom Hogan will provide you with personalized attention and guidance. Protecting your rights is our main objective. We have been representing clients for the past 30 years and our experienced team of attorneys will advise you of the legal consequences of every decision you take.
Back to top