Under New York’s Domestic Relations Law Section 237, “[i]n any action or proceeding brought . . . for a divorce . . . the court may direct either spouse . . . to pay counsel fees and fees and expenses of experts directly to the attorney of the other spouse to enable the other party to carry on or defend the action or proceeding as, in the court’s discretion, justice requires . . . .” NY CLS Dom Rel § 237(a).
Furthermore, the above statute states that “[t]here shall be a rebuttable presumption that counsel fees shall be awarded to the less monied spouse.” NY CLS Dom Rel § 237(a). The statute also states that “the court shall seek to assure that each party shall be adequately represented and that where fees and expenses are to be awarded, they shall be awarded on a timely basis, pendente lite, so as to enable adequate representation from the commencement of the proceeding.” NY CLS Dom Rel § 237(a).
Thus, as a divorce litigant who makes significantly more money than your spouse, you, as the monied spouse, may be ultimately ordered to pay your spouse’s counsel fees. Of course, this can greatly increase the cost of the litigation for the monied spouse because the monied spouse has to pay their own legal fees as well.
It is for this and other reasons that finding a way to achieve a compromise on difficult issues may allow you to settle your case early and avoid running up both your legal bill and your spouse’s legal bill, which you may have to pay for. While choosing to settle is ultimately a client’s choice, the expense of perhaps having to pay your opponent’s legal fees may factor into your decision-making.