Betty (not her real name) had racked up substantial divorce attorney fees that she could not afford to pay, and she came to see me about filing bankruptcy. But Betty was afraid that even with bankruptcy she’d still have to pay her divorce attorney fees. Betty’s divorce attorney fees were a large part of her debt problem. Betty was concerned that because some debts from a divorce are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, she would still owe her lawyer after her bankruptcy discharge.
This won’t make me popular with other attorneys, but fortunately for Betty attorney fees from a divorce lawyer are dischargeable in bankruptcy. While debts to spouses, former spouses, and children incurred in a divorce are not dischargeable in chapter 7 bankruptcy, attorneys’ fees are not part of that exception to discharge. Divorce attorneys don’t get special privileges that would their fees nondischargeable in bankruptcy.
Whether to pay her divorce attorney after Betty gets her debts discharged in bankruptcy is up to her. You may voluntarily pay discharged debts after bankruptcy, so Betty may pay her divorce attorney after her bankruptcy case if she can afford it and thinks that it is the right thing to do. But if paying her attorney would cause more financial hardship or worse, Betty does not have to pay this debt.
If you have debt that you cannot afford to pay, including attorney fees, contact a bankruptcy lawyer for a free consultation. You don’t have to be burdened by crushing debt just because that debt is from an attorney!