NY Divorce at a Glance. Part 7 of 8: Counsel Fee Awards
In any divorce or annulment, the Court is authorized to award counsel fees. It is assumed as a starting point the spouse with more money will pay attorney fees for the other spouse.
Pendente Lite Counsel FeesThe court is authorized to award counsel fees while a divorce is pending. This preliminary award is based on limited information and is designed to allow the spouse with less money to carry on the divorce with the same level of representation as the spouse with greater financial resources.
The statute provides that there is a presumption that counsel fees will be awarded and it is the burden of the monied spouse to show otherwise.
Final Award of Counsel FeesAt the conclusion of the case, the court will award counsel fees if requested. Unlike pendente lite counsel fees which are designed as a temporary measure, the final award will consider far more detail.
The factors normally considered by the court are:
Whether one spouse has substantially more income and assets than the other
Whether or not the legal services were necessary
Whether the amounts requested are reasonable under the circumstances
Whether the monied spouse is better able to pay the fees
Whether the monied spouse is responsible in making the fees larger than they should have been
Whether any litigation was made in good faith or whether claims were made solely for use as bargaining chips
The value of the services rendered
The standing of the attorney and nature of services
The complexity of the litigation
The results obtained by the attorney
The customary and ordinary legal fees normally charged by the legal community as compared to the requested fees
The time spent making an application for legal fees may be included in an award of lawyer fees.
The actual amount is left to the Court's discretion. The parties are entitled to a hearing on counsel fees, but they may agree to have them decided on papers only.