Should victim pay for abuser’s property division attorney?

The law is sometimes a curious thing, in Florida and elsewhere. Laws are often created to address one problem, yet they end up creating other problems. An example is found in a case in another state in which a woman is being forced to pay for an attorney to represent her husband in their divorce. She will have to make payments to the legal counsel who will represent the opposing party in matters related to property division and spousal support. 

The state has a law in place that requires the court to appoint an attorney for an inmate facing a divorce. The cost of the state-appointed attorney must be covered by the inmate’s spouse. While the court can determine the costs and limit the expense, many spouses are simply unable to come up with the money needed to pay for both their own and their spouse’s legal counsel. 

In this case, the husband is serving a prison sentence for violently attacking the wife. She was knocked unconscious and choked during that attack, and her husband also fired a gun at her. When she tried to file for divorce, she was advised that she would be required to cover the cost of his legal counsel. 

Her case prompted a senator in her state to file a simple bill intended to end the practice of forcing a victim of domestic violence to pay for legal services — including property division negotiations — for his or her abuser. The bill is co-sponsored by five other senators and has widespread support. If it passes, the state would be required to cover the legal fees for the inmate, although these cases are so rare that it is not expected to cost taxpayers a significant amount. For readers in Florida, that outcome may seem completely reasonable. 

Source:, “Wife stuck paying for abusive husband’s divorce lawyer because he’s in jail – and it’s Kentucky law“, Deborah Yetter, Jan. 9, 2018

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