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Who Is Responsible for Legal Fees in Long Island Divorce?

by | Dec 19, 2017 | Property Division, NY

Most of our divorce and family law clients, and prospective clients, naturally are concerned about the legal fees for their Long Island Divorce. It is a topic that most clients are troubled about, especially when they expect to need to litigate their case in a Long Island courtroom. Many Contested Divorces can cause legal fees to become costly.

However, if you have selected the right attorney, he or she will do his or her best to ensure that your legal fees stay as low as possible, typically through settlement negotiations rather than court appearances. Despite their best efforts, there are some situations that, no matter how good the attorney, can end up costing a good deal of money in legal fees. In some cases, your spouse will purposefully attempt to drag out your divorce, hoping to increase your legal expenses, strong-arming you into agreeing to a settlement that is not in your favor. In these situations, there may be a remedy available to you.

Am I Automatically Entitled to Legal Fees?

While you are not automatically entitled to legal fees, since 2010 a presumption has been created that the less monied spouse would be awarded counsel fees. This means that the party making more money would have to assist the less monied spouse in paying his or her legal fees. However, the monied spouse can rebut this presumption. Both parties must file affidavits which state the financial agreement between themselves and his or her attorney, including your retainer agreement and the hourly rates of your attorney, and a Statement of Net Worth, which details your income, expenses, debts, etc. It is important to note, however, that this presumption does not extend post-divorce. What this means is that if you are going to seek legal fees, you must request it during the course of litigation.

What if I am Not Getting a Divorce on Long Island?

According to New York State’s Domestic Relations Law, counsel fees may be awarded in not just divorce actions, but also in actions for an annulment, separation, or certain actions relating to marriages or divorces obtained outside New York’s jurisdiction. Additionally, the presumption also applies to an action brought for modifying a Separation Agreement or Judgment of Divorce.

How is the Award Determined?

The court will analyze the income of both parties, the necessity of the legal services rendered, whether one party has purposefully dragged out the litigation, causing the other party to incur additional and unnecessary legal fees, how complex the litigation was, and whether the amount requested was reasonable. This is how the monied spouse may rebut the presumption of legal fees being awarded to the less monied spouse. If the monied spouse can show that, for example, the “less monied” spouse has been hiding money, then the court will likely not award legal fees in that instance.

What Should I Be Doing Now?

If you are the less monied spouse, it is critical that you submit an accurate Statement of Net Worth and all relevant affidavits outlining your financial relationship with your attorney. Failing to do so may cause the court to deny your application for legal fees.

If you are the monied spouse, you should keep track of all legal action taken by your spouse. While most attorneys will not risk their license to drag out litigation, certain clients may refuse to reasonably cooperate. This behavior by your spouse may be beneficial to you when attempting to rebut the presumption.

Have Questions about Legal Fees for Your Divorce on Long Island? Contact Us for your Free Consultation

To learn more about what you need to know about How Much a Divorce Costs and how to get help to protect yourself and your future, visit this page: If you have further questions regarding obtaining legal fees for your Long Island Divorce, or are concerned that, due to your financial situation, you may not be able to afford legal services, please call our Long Island divorce and family law firm at 631-923-1910 for your free consultation.


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