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Divorce Law New York (Attorney's Fees)

It is clear that the trial court has general power to award attorney fees pursuant to subsection (a) of this section and also pursuant to the plenary equitable powers of the trial court; however, rega...

It is clear that the trial court has general power to award attorney fees pursuant to subsection (a) of this section and also pursuant to the plenary equitable powers of the trial court; however, regardless of the source, the power must be exercised while the trial court retains general jurisdiction over the cause. Where the court had evidence before it of the financial resources of both parties when ruling on the issue of attorney fees and where no hearing had been requested, the trial court's failure to conduct a hearing on the propriety of the award of attorney fees was not error. The award of attorney fees is based on a showing of the inability of one spouse to pay and the ability of the other spouse to do so. The court may order either spouse to pay a reasonable amount for the costs and attorney fees necessarily incurred by the other spouse. The granting of attorney fees is improper where no evidence is heard as to the items of service which were performed, the basis of the amount requested, or the reasonableness of such fees.

Where petition for fees was submitted prior to entry of a judgment dispositive of the merits of the action, and where the clear import of the language of subsection (a) of this section was that the court may order attorney fees to be paid by either party to either attorney, the provision was given its clear meaning and the trial court properly entered judgment in favor of a firm against its own client. The general rule concerning awards of attorney fees in a divorce suit is that the party seeking such relief must show financial inability to pay and the ability of the other spouse to do so. The fees allowed in dissolution proceeding should be fair to all the parties involved: the attorney to be compensated, the client, and the person required to make the payment.

The amount awarded should be fair compensation for those services which were reasonable and necessary to the action. The propriety of an award of attorney fees depends on the particular facts of each case; in determining whether a party is unable to pay attorney fees the assets of that party must be weighed in light of the parties' standard of living. To justify the allowance of attorney fees, the party seeking relief must show financial inability to pay and the ability of the other spouse to do so. The party seeking to recover attorney fees must show financial inability to pay and the ability of the other spouse to do so; the decision in regard to fees then rests within the sound discretion of the trial court. Attorney fees in a dissolution of marriage proceeding are the primary obligation of the party for whom the services are rendered. The allowance of attorney fees to an opposing party is justified where the party seeking relief demonstrates financial inability to pay and the ability of the other spouse to do so. Although the trial court is permitted wide discretion in awarding attorney fees, that discretion is not unbounded. The allowance of attorney fees for appeal rests within the sound discretion of the trial court, which allowance will not be disturbed on review in the absence of a clear showing of abuse; fees may be allowed only upon findings of inability to pay by the petitioning spouse, and that the other spouse is able to pay.

The well-established principle that the amount of attorney fees rests in the sound discretion of the trial judge, and will not be interfered with unless abused, applies to support awards. The allowance of attorney fees in a divorce proceeding is not automatic, but depends on a showing that one spouse is financially unable to pay the fees, while the other is able to do so. The decisions whether to grant periodic alimony, attorney fees, and suit money rest in the sound discretion of the circuit court. The matter of fixing attorney fees is one of the few areas in which a trial judge may rely on the pleadings, affidavits on file and on his own experience. Former section 15 of the Divorce Act authorized the trial court to order the payment of such attorney fees as may seem equitable, regardless of the disposition of the case. The awarding of attorney fees rests in the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be interfered with unless such discretion is clearly abused.

Ability to Pay

In General The trial court did not err in requiring ex-wife to pay a majority of her attorney fees. For purposes of determining an award of attorney fees, financial inability exists where the forced payment of available funds would strip a person of his or her means of support and undermine his or her economic stability. The party seeking attorney fees must show an inability to pay, and the ability of the other spouse to pay fees. Before one spouse may recover attorney fees from the other, the spouse seeking fees must demonstrate that he or she is financially unable to pay and that the other spouse has the ability to pay; a mere showing that the other spouse has a greater ability to pay attorney fees is not sufficient to justify an award of fees under this section.

Former Law

Under former Rev.Stat., ch. 40, para. 16 in order to justify allowance of attorney's fees in a divorce case, the party seeking the relief needed to show financial inability to pay and the ability of the other spouse to do so; however, financial inability was not synonymous with destitution for the income and assets of both parties were considered, and if use of the available funds of the party seeking the attorney's fees would strip the person of the means of his support and undermine his economic stability, financial inability to pay such fees was shown.

It must be shown that the party seeking this relief is financially unable to pay and that the party seeking this relief is financially unable to pay and that the other party is able to do so; however, when a party does not request a hearing on his ability to pay or his opponent's inability to pay, the right to such a hearing is waived and the court may base its decision on the financial conditions of the parties as shown by the record.

Installment Order

Few can afford the expenses of divorce without incurring debt, which must be paid by someone; a party who does not have the present ability to pay his own attorney fees can nevertheless be ordered to pay his own attorneyHealth Fitness Articles, although enforcement might have to be accomplished by an installment order.

Not Shown

Even though respondent had greater earning capacity he could not pay the bulk of petitioner's attorney's fees and continue to pay his own monthly expenses and attorney fees.

Article Tags: Must Show Financial, Show Financial Inability, Attorney's Fees, Trial Court, Attorney Fees, Other Spouse, Party Seeking, Must Show, Show Financial, Financial Inability, Fees Must, Sound Discretion, Financially Unable

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


New York City divorce and family law firm handling divorce and family law cases throughout New York City and the surrounding areas. Results driven law firm with experience and skill to handle the most difficult cases. Divorce Lawyers New York



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