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Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Can My Ex Make Me Pay His Legal Expenses During Our Divorce?

In most cases, each party in a divorce is responsible for paying his or her attorney fees and expenses related to the divorce. However, there are certain situations in which a spouse may be required to pay the attorney fees and costs for a soon-to-be ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding. Consulting a New York family law lawyer as soon as possible about your legal rights during a divorce action can help protect your property, income, and future.

New York Laws Regarding Legal Fees During a Divorce

The costs of a divorce action can be high. Contested divorces can result in thousands of dollars in legal fees for both spouses. For that reason, the payment of legal fees can be a significant issue during a divorce action.

New York has a law that requires the spouse with more income or financial resources to shoulder the majority of the legal fees during a divorce action. The law is intended to ensure that both parties have access to experienced, competent legal representation during a divorce action, regardless of a spouse’s ability to pay for legal representation. Some of the considerations a judge may examine when determining whether to award legal fees to one spouse include:

  • Whether you earn substantially more than your ex;
  • Whether you have substantial resources or assets compared to your ex;
  • If the legal services provided were necessary and reasonable;
  • Whether you or your ex took actions to mitigate or inflate legal fees;
  • The complexity of your divorce proceeding;
  • Average and customary legal fees charged in your area;
  • The value of the legal services performed by the attorney; 
  • The results obtained by the attorney; and,
  • Whether litigation was necessary.

Therefore, your ex could petition the court to require you to pay for his legal expenses during a divorce action if you make more money than your ex makes, or you have more financial resources available than your ex. There are some exceptions.

Exceptions to the Law Requiring You to Pay Your Ex’s Legal Fees for a Divorce

A court might not order you to pay for your ex’s legal fees if your ex has access to extensive resources. If your ex can liquidate some assets to pay legal fees, a judge may decide that your ex has sufficient resources to comfortably afford legal representation without your financial assistance. 

Another exception might occur if your spouse unnecessarily inflates legal fees by refusing to negotiate a fair settlement when you are willing to settle the case without a trial. Spouses who act out of spite or revenge are less likely to receive court approval of a motion seeking approval of legal fees from the other spouse. 

Also, the judge must find that an award of attorney fees to your ex would not prevent you from retaining legal counsel for yourself. Therefore, simply making more money than your spouse does not automatically make you responsible for paying your ex’s legal fees during a divorce action. 

Hiring an Experienced New York Divorce Attorney to Represent Your Best Interests

If you are contemplating divorce, seeking advice from an experienced New York divorce attorney as soon as possible is in your best interest. A divorce attorney understands the state’s complex divorce laws and how to use those laws to protect your best interests. Contact Gassman Baiamonte Gruner, P.C. to speak with a New York child custody lawyer today and help ensure that your ex does not take unfair advantage of you during your divorce proceeding.


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