CHALLENGING ATTORNEY FEES IN DIVORCE
DIVORCE LAWYER NASSAU COUNTY NY
H. Michael Stern, Esq., a New York matrimonial and family law attorney and mediator with over 32 years of experience suggests that attorneys fee applications in New York matrimonial actions should always be vigorously defended.
In the commercial case of Cruz v. Seward Park Housing Corp. (no citation available at this time-Index No. 155244/16, decided 7/6/18) Justice Engoron of the Supreme Court, New York County decided a motion, reducing a request for counsel fees by the prevailing party from $464,164 to $175,000.00. In doing so, the Court was critical in addressing escalating legal fees, referring to the request for fees as “shocking and disturbing” and “highway robbery without a six-gun.” The Court also noted in a lengthy diatribe against out of-control legal fees that by “requesting astronomical fees, attorneys are in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.” While the Court was suitably impressed by the legal services provided by prevailing counsel referring to their motion papers as “excellent”, it also noted that a litigation loser ‘should not have to pay for a limousine when a sedan could have done the job. It stressed that “gold-plated lawyering was not needed.”
So, you might ask, why am I referring to this case in a matrimonial blog? Because the problem is just as pervasive in matrimonial practice, that’s why. The law provides for an award of interim counsel fees pending trial for the economically disadvantaged party in a divorce case. Motions for interim counsel fees in divorce cases typically rely on counsel’s experience and standing in the legal community. Oftentimes, these motions tend to “gild the lily”, trying to induce the Court to award an overestimated, inflated fee to the moving attorneys at the beginning of a case, where a substantially lesser fee is actually warranted. Such awards tend to create a litigation “snowball effect”, as the fees awarded must then be earned by the prevailing attorneys through unnecessary litigation — to the occasional detriment of the parties since there is no requirement that such fees produce demonstrable results of any kind. Similar applications may follow as there is no limit to the number of attorney’s fee applications that can be made in a New York divorce case.
Thus, in my opinion it is absolutely necessary to challenge the efforts of attorneys who seek onerous and unjustified anticipatory attorneys fee awards in matrimonial actions. I have been vigorously defending such applications, decided either by motion or following a hearing for over 30 years.
I have been trying divorce cases since 1987. and It is also critical to staunchly defend inflated unreasonable counsel fee applications made at trial. My goal first and foremost is to win at trial when a settlement cannot be reached in the case. Focusing on the needs of the client and the results sought have always been a hallmark of my Long Island practice over the past 30 years. Feel free to contact me, H. Michael Stern, Esq., a Long Island divorce and family law attorney, if you are interested in discussing your matrimonial, divorce or family law matter at email@example.com or by phone at 516-747-2290.
My office is conveniently located adjacent to the Roosevelt Field Mall Ring Road at 666 Old Country Road in Garden City, New York.
Written by: H. MICHAEL STERN, Divorce & Family Lawyer, Nassau County, Long Island NY