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Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Monday, January 16, 2017

Attorney’s Fees and Your New York Divorce

Who pays the attorney’s fees in a divorce?

Cost may be one of your first concerns if you are considering filing for divorce.  A contested divorce can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexities of the case and number of court appearances.  Hourly rates for attorneys will vary, but can be quite costly.  Generally, each spouse is responsible for their own legal fees and court costs in a divorce.  However, to help spouses offset these costs, New York and several other states allow for the higher-earning spouse to cover the costs of the spouse that earns less.

New York Domestic Relations Law § 237

Domestic Relations Law Section 237 (DRL 237) authorizes the award of attorney’s fees in a divorce, annulment, or separation, as well as in any custody, visitation, or child support proceeding.  New York judges may award attorney’s fees in the interests of justice, taking into account the circumstances of the case and of the respective parties.  There is a rebuttable presumption that counsel fees will be awarded to the lower earning spouse.  

Under New York case law, it is not necessary that the spouse seeking the award of attorney’s fees be declared indigent.  Rather, the court should consider factors such as:

  • Whether one spouse earns substantially more income or has significantly more assets than the other;
  • Whether legal services were necessary;
  • Whether the amount requested is reasonable;
  • Whether the monied spouse took actions that made the legal fees larger than they otherwise would have been;
  • The complexity of the case;
  • Customary legal fees charged in the area, as compared to the fees requested;
  • The value of legal services rendered;
  • The results obtained by the attorney;
  • Whether litigation was made in good faith.

If you are planning to divorce your spouse and worried about potential legal fees, you should consult with one of our New York divorce lawyers as soon as possible.  Our firm will examine your financial situation, along with your soon to be ex spouse’s finances, to determine whether you may have a viable action for the award of attorney’s fees.


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