man reviewing divorce papers

Navigating Legal Fees in New York Divorces: Factors That Determine Who Pays

By Michael DiFalco

Divorce proceedings can be emotionally and financially draining for all parties involved. In New York, the division of legal fees often becomes a point of contention. Several factors influence who pays the legal fees in a New York divorce. At Aiello & DiFalco, we understand the complexities of divorce and are often involved in contested cases where legal fees are determined so we can guide you through the process.

Resources of the Parties

New York Domestic Relations Law § 237 stipulates that the “monied” spouse, or the one with more income and financial resources, generally bears the majority of legal fees in a divorce. This arrangement aims to ensure equal legal representation for both parties, regardless of their financial situation.

There is a legal presumption that the monied spouse must contribute or pay for the less-monied spouse’s legal fees or a portion of their fees. 

However, when both parties have substantial resources, courts are less likely to award legal fees solely based on income disparity. This scenario is common in high-asset cases where both parties can comfortably pay for legal fees despite an income difference.

Willingness to Settle

New York courts encourage divorce case settlements to reduce the burden on the court system and save time and money for the parties involved. When deciding how to allocate legal fees, courts often favor the spouse who demonstrates a willingness to settle. On the other hand, a spouse who unnecessarily prolongs litigation or takes issues to trial out of spite may be required to pay the other party’s legal fees.

Unnecessary Litigation or Meritless Positions

The court does not look kindly upon efforts to intentionally inflate legal fees by dragging out the litigation unnecessarily or taking meritless positions. Such actions, even when committed by a lower-earning spouse, can result in added financial responsibility for that party. When the court determines that the less resourceful party should shoulder a portion of the litigation costs, it aims to discourage unnecessarily prolonging litigation. In short, when a party is held responsible for some of the legal fees, they are less likely to engage in practices designed to raise those fees.

Contact Aiello & DiFalco Today

Divorce and legal separation in New York are complex processes that require the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. At Aiello & DiFalco, our matrimonial and family law practice offers knowledgeable counsel to individuals and families. Our seasoned New York family law attorneys have managed hundreds of cases involving intricate custody, visitation, and support matters across the state. Please contact us for an initial consultation.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.