Who Pays the Attorneys’ Fees in a New York Divorce?
Like any other legal proceeding, your divorce requires skillful guidance from a qualified lawyer who can protect your rights effectively. However, many spouses facing marriage dissolution are concerned about how their attorneys’ fees might add to their overall financial burden. This fear can be particularly acute when one spouse has relied on the other for financial support and so is worried about winding up with an unfair divorce order because of the higher earner’s ability to fund more legal firepower.
New York law gives a divorcing party the ability to obtain attorneys’ fees from their spouse in order to increase the likelihood that the marriage dissolution will be litigated on a fair playing field. Under the Domestic Relations Law, a court can direct one spouse in a divorce, separation or annulment to pay some or all of the other spouse’s attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses. Factors that could affect whether fee and cost shifting is ordered include:
- Financial situation of the spouses — Often, a judge will make the higher-earning spouse pay at least a portion of the other spouse’s fees and costs. This is particularly true when a wife or husband does not work outside the home. Since the spouses and their children will be living with the outcome for many years to come, the legal proceeding should be decided on the merits rather than by who can afford the better lawyer. However, in cases where both parties possess sufficient assets to retain suitable legal counsel, the shifting of fees and costs could be limited or eliminated altogether.
- Conduct of the parties — A spouse who runs up everyone’s legal bills with needless procedures and who refuses to negotiate reasonably should not be rewarded. A judge making a decision on attorneys’ fees can consider whether a party was acting in good faith.
- Services provided by counsel — Though each side has the right to select the attorney of their choice, a judge has discretion about the amount of legal fees that will be awarded. Someone who expects to rely on their spouse for all of their fees and costs might want to think twice before going out and hiring the most expensive legal team available. The fee awarded needs to be reasonable and connected to the actual services provided.
By speaking with an accomplished New York family law attorney, you will gain an informed perspective on what to expect in your divorce, including advice on whether a judge might require one party to pay the other’s attorneys’ fees.
At Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. in Melville, we represent clients throughout Long Island in divorces and other family law matters. To schedule a free consultation about your divorce, please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.