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If I am awarded legal fees, Is my soon to be ex now responsible or do I have to still pay my lawyer and chase ex for it?

West Islip, NY |

I have to decide right away if I will be requesting legal fees from judge ( judge asked for it by a certain date ) , I already have a large judgement for child support arrears . ( soon to be ex has no " documented income " or assets in his name and likely never will . ) My lawyer has informed me that to put together the paperwork necessary would be a minimum of 8 hours ( yes . . . a lot ) . I am likely to get the judgement . . which is just another piece of paper . . . MY QUESTION : Does the judge award the fees to be paid from my ex to my lawyer directly ? Or am I still on the hook with my lawyers for legal fees which would be MORE because of the additional 8 + hours to prepare request ? ? Just trying to figure out if its worth pursuing . ( I already have a big child support arrears judgement )

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Attorney answers 3

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As the other answers say, you have a contract with your attorney that obligates you to pay for the services rendered to you, and you have to honor that obligation whether or not you're entitled to be reimbursed by someone else. As such, the judge doesn't have the power (at least in these circumstances) to free you from your contract with your attorney so you will still be on the hook for the fees you owe your lawyer whether or not your lawyer is allowed to try and collect his/her fees directly from your ex.

Based on that you're probably asking the right question - the practical one - which is whether it's worth the additional cost to request the judge order you costs. To decide that one you really need to decide if you'll ever get any money out of your ex in the first place. If he's not going to pay you all of the child support arrearages, then he's equally unlikely to be able to pay you anything for your legal expenses on top of that. If the odds are pretty small that he's ever going to pay all of the child support arrearages, then the odds are even smaller that he'll pay any of those legal fees, so it seems to me that it may not be worth incurring the additional fees for 8 hours of work if you won't get anything out of it other than a pretty piece of paper signed by the judge.

Good luck, and please make sure you discuss this carefully with your attorney - whatever your attorney says is the advice you should rely on, not whatever you get for free online from people whom you've never hired.

My answer does not constitute legal advice and may not be relied upon by anyone for any purpose and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship or an offer to form such a relationship. This disclaimer is intended to be fully compliant with the requirements of Treasury Department Circular 230 and the terms thereof are fully incorporated by reference. If you wish to consult with me please contact me at dana@nytaxcounsel or visit my website at


Your attorney has a contract with you, and you have an obligation to your attorney regardless of whether you are ultimately entitled to reimbursement from any other source. It is common for attorney fee orders to provide for direct collection by the attorney, but even that does not supersede the obligation of the client to the attorney. In the even that the account is paid in full by the client and the attorney then collects from the third party, the attorney releases the funds collected to the client.

Best wishes for an outcome you can accept, and please remember to designate a best answer.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.


You are entitled to legal fees if there is a willful default. Your ex may be required to pay either you directly or your attorney. See if your lawyer will agree in writing to be paid directly from your ex or from you upon receipt of legal fees from your ex. The motion for legal fees is not a complicated one.

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