July 31, 2006
Case Law Developments: Attorneys Fees
The New York Appellate Division has concluded that a prenuptial agreement precluding either spouse from seeking legal fees from the other in the event of a divorce, while not invalid on its face, is against public policy in this case given the gross disparity in the couple's finances. The court announced that fee waiver provisions should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
If, upon such an inquiry, the court determines that enforcement of the provision would preclude the non-monied spouse from carrying on or defending a matrimonial action or proceeding as justice requires, the provision may be held unenforceable. Also relevant to such a determination is the conduct of the parties over the course of the matrimonial action. Such a determination is frequently best made at the conclusion of the action. However, because an attorney's fee is authorized when needed to carry on or defend an action, it may be necessary to make such a determination at an earlier point in the litigation.
Kessler v. Kessler, NY App Div (July 11, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited July 30, 2006 bgf)
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