I can no longer afford to move forward with my case - What should I do?
Family law cases can be extremely acrimonious and, for this reason, they may drag on longer and cost more in legal fees than a party initially expected. Sometimes, a party may even be ordered to pay the opposing party’s attorney’s fees in addition to their own. In these situations, a party may get financially strapped, and desire to dismiss the case and file again later when they are financially able to do so. This may or may not solve the issue.
If you are the Petitioner in the case (meaning you filed the action), you can dismiss your petition at any time. You would then no longer continue to accrue attorney’s fees, though you would presumably still owe for work that has already been completed. You would also still owe any fees for the opposing party that had already been assessed against you. If there was a counterclaim filed, however, dismissing your petition will not dismiss the counterclaim, which means that part of the case continues, and fees will, presumably, continue to accrue for both parties. If you are the Respondent in the case (meaning the case was filed against you), you can dismiss your counterclaim (if any), but this does not dismiss the original action filed against you.
It should be noted that the opposing side has up to 45 days after the case is over (which would include a dismissal) to file a Motion for fees under OCGA §9-15-14. While Judges don’t tend to award fees under this statute, it does happen.
If you become unable to afford your own lawyer’s fees, I recommend having a meeting with your lawyer to discuss the issue.
By Patrick L. Meriwether, Partner, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC