Attorney’s Fees: How poor do you have to be to get them in a New York divorce?

How poor do you have to be to get attorneys fees in a New York Divorce? Well, according to Judge Sunshine in Brooklyn Supreme Court, you can’t ask the court for attorneys fees when you make $200,000 a year as an attorney in a big law firm in Manhattan.

In a recent case, A.L.v C.K., Judge Sunshine was asked, by motion to allow the husband to get attorneys fees from the wife. The husband made $200,000 per year and the wife made $47,500. So it sounds crazy that the husband would have the audacity to ask the court to make his wife, a theology professor, pay his attorneys fees, right?

Well, there is a catch. It turns out the wife gets over $300,000 per year from a family trust. And the couple lives the big life in Brooklyn’s tony Park Slope. So neither of them is exactly poor.

But the court found that even if the wife got an extra $100,000 per year over the husband (due to the trust) that the husband is basically not poor enough (well, the way the court put it was that the husband is not a “non-monied” spouse) and so he was not entitled to attorneys fees.

Now, if he were married to Madonna, a high profile, high networth celebrity who is worth in excess of $500,000,000.00, then, of course, a request for attorneys fees would have been granted, no question about it.
Everything is relative. Even what is considered “non-monied” spouses.

Originally published August 22, 2008

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