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Common Sense: Protracted Litigation Leads to Heavy Legal Fees

It is no secret that divorce litigation costs time, emotional energy and money. In New York, attorney fees in divorce matters can run anywhere from $150 an hour to more than $800 depending on experience and case complexity. In many cases, the higher monied spouse bears the cost of legal fees, but in a recent case, a New York judge ordered the unemployed wife of a hedge fund manager to bear the cost of her own legal efforts.

While a statement of net worth is required in a New York divorce case, when the value of the marital estate runs in the millions of dollars, the likelihood of protracted divorce litigation increases. For New York Hedge Fund manager George Sykes and his wife Amanda, divorce litigation has consumed the past three years and approximately $2 million dollars.

The following points can be drawn from the ruling by New York State Judge Matthew Cooper:

  • The court feared the open wallet of Mr. Sykes provided no incentive for Mrs. Sykes to deal reasonably in the matter.
  • According to legal counsel for Mr. Sykes, Ms. Sykes and her attorney, Robert Cohen, had incurred a $700,000 legal bill in two month's time.
  • Noting Mr. Sykes had every incentive to curtail the litigation, it was also noted that Ms. Sykes had no skin in the game that would encourage her to get down to business on the divorce.

Access to money to pay legal fees during a divorce proceeding is important for less-monied spouses, but in some cases leads to longer legal battles, draining wealth away from the higher paid spouse, and ultimately the marital estate.

If considering divorce in New York, seek reputable legal counsel prepared to pursue your rights and protect your assets.

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