In divorce cases, it's possible that one party (usually the husband), will be ordered to pay the legal fees of the other party, even before the case goes to trial.

My understanding is that sometimes the judge will award one party their court costs from the other, based on the results of the trial. But are there any instances other than divorce where one party has to pay the costs of another before the judicial decision?

  • You say "adjudication" in your question when I think you mean "litigation". It is also possible that you mean "dispute resolution" which encompass both and more besides. See beldenlex.com/pdf/…
    – Dale M
    Mar 21, 2017 at 0:04
  • @DaleM: No, I meant "verdict," which would include court costs awarded e.g. to defendant for a meritless suit.
    – Libra
    Mar 21, 2017 at 0:06
  • In that case, please edit your question
    – Dale M
    Mar 21, 2017 at 0:15
  • @DaleM: I use "adjudication" synonymously with "verdict." Or maybe one might say that "adjudication" (judge) results in a verdict.
    – Libra
    Mar 21, 2017 at 0:19
  • Verdicts are only applicable to criminal trials and are made by juries (except where a defendant has waived the right to a jury trial, then they are made by judges. In civil trials, judges (or sometimes juries) hand down decisions. Adjudicators in adjudications also hand down decisions. However, judges conduct trials, adjudicators conduct adjudications. Please read the link and edit your question to say what you mean.
    – Dale M
    Mar 21, 2017 at 0:27

1 Answer 1


It isn't the norm, but it happens in certain circumstances.

  • It is common in consumer and employment arbitration contracts to require the party being sued to front the costs for the arbitrator and the arbitration process, although not the legal fees of the person bringing suit. These can often be recovered if the company that is sued prevails on the merits.

  • In criminal cases and termination of parental rights cases, indigent parties have a right to an attorney at state expense.

  • In cases where an insurance company is responsible for some or all of the judgment, it is common for the insurance company to have a duty to defend the lawsuit even if there is a possibility that it would not have responsibility for a judgment the lawsuit depending upon how the case comes out (and it has an active dispute with the insured over coverage of the claim). Strictly speaking they aren't funding an attorney who is suing the insurance company, however.

  • When a corporation's officers and directors are sued (allegedly for breaching their duties to the corporation often pursuant to a derivative lawsuit brought by shareholders on behalf of the company) they often have a right to have their defense costs paid by the company as part of an indemnification agreement, pending a final outcome.

  • Municipal governments pay dues on behalf of union members to unions on behalf of member employees and represented employees (in non "right to work" states) a significant share of which goes into a litigation fund to represent workers in employment suits and (especially in the case of law enforcement employees who are unionized) lawsuits brought by third parties.

  • Sometimes a trustee of a trust accused of breaching a fiduciary duty to an otherwise indigent beneficiary may be required to finance the attorneys suing the trust.

  • Not infrequently, a court will appoint counsel or court professionals (such as guardians ad litem or a child and family investigator) at court expense, in the face of allegations of mistreatment of an indigent protected person (an early example of this was the court in the Amistad case where an appointed counsel represented slaves who took control of a slave ship, a case that was made into a movie). A non-prevailing party may later have to pay these amounts and an opposing party may sometimes have to fund these amounts pending a final resolution.

  • Not infrequently, a court will appoint counsel to represent a position (like the argument that a statute is constitutional) when no party to the action chooses to do so (e.g. because the state attorney general believes that the statute is unconstitutional), sometimes at the expense of the party seeking to have the statute declared unconstitutional or at state expense (and the state is a party opposed in fact to this position in such a case).

  • I don't know enough trial law to say for sure, but when sanctions are imposed on a party aren't they sometimes (or often?) essentially assessed to cover the legal fees of the counterparty caused by whatever misbehavior warranted the sanctions?
    – feetwet
    Mar 21, 2017 at 1:45

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