How to Get a Spouse to Pay Counsel Fees
Pursuant to the case of Williams v. Williams, 59 N.J. 229 (1971), an award of counsel fees in a New Jersey divorce action is within the discretion of the court. The Williams case stands for the proposition that the court must look at the requesting party's need, the other party's ability to pay, and the good faith or bad faith put forth on behalf of each party. Additional factors that the courts must also consider include, but are not limited to, the complexity of the case, the quality of the financial positions among the parties, the spouses' respective shares of equitable distribution of the marital assets, and the applicant's share in the equitable distribution process and the liquidity of same.
Attorneys' Fees Must be Reasonable
Counsel fees are required to be reasonable under the circumstances. Courts will look at the time and labor required, novelty and difficulty of questions involved, and the skill required to perform services properly. The courts will also look at whether or not the fee charged by the attorneys is customarily charged in the location for similar services.
File an Application with the Court for Attorneys' Fees
At the onset of a contested litigated divorce, typically one spouse is in a better financial position to pay for his or her attorney's fees than the other spouse. Especially in circumstances wherein one of the spouses is a homemaker and does not have access to a steady paycheck. If in fact that is the case, it may make sense for the non-working spouse to immediately make an application with the court to seek to “level the playing field”. It is not fair for one spouse to have the ability to fund the litigation and the other spouse to be, in essence, left shorthanded and not have the ability to secure proper representation.
The family law attorneys at Villani & DeLuca are quite creative when it comes to representing spouses who do not have the requisite funds to pay an initial upfront retainer. There are a number of ways to handle such a situation. One of which, at the onset of the case, is for the attorney to forward a letter to the other spouse's attorney requesting that an initial retainer be supplied and advising the other side that, in the event the initial retainer is not supplied, they will then file an application with the court to seek to compel the other party to forward the requisite retainer monies.
More and more frequently judges are recognizing that it is not fair to have an imbalance of power between the parties in a divorce. If the attorney is able to make a creative argument such as using credit cards to pay a retainer or the utilization of an equity line to level the playing field, often times this is done. If you are facing the prospect of a divorce and either you do not have a job or access to money readily available, please call the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca to schedule your free initial consultation. You have nothing to lose by doing so and you might even find a viable alternative to proceeding with your divorce without the representation you deserve.
Equal Ability to Obtain Competent and Experienced Legal Counsel
Counsel fees are always an integral part of a divorce proceeding. It is absolutely essential that you are provided with a thorough understanding of this issue prior to engaging in the divorce process. It is imperative for a divorcing spouse to receive a fair divorce settlement, that the playing field be level, and that both spouses have an equal ability to obtain competent and experienced legal counsel.
Vincent DeLuca, NJ Certified Matrimonial Attorney
Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq. is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a matrimonial law attorney and has extensive experience in this area of the law. Contact the office of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. for a free initial consultation about your divorce matter or if you have questions about attorneys' fees in a New Jersey divorce. Call (732) 709-7757 today!
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