Court Award of Counsel Fees Against a Bad Faith Litigant When It Is Unlikely Payment Will Be Made

It sometimes occurs that one spouse is obligated to defend him/herself against a continuous barrage of bad faith motions from the other spouse. This may be especially the case where the bad faith party is not employed or has few assets. Defending these motions can be expensive and frustrating.
However, even if it appears unlikely that the good faith spuse will ever collect a possible counsel fee award, it is the Court’s responsibility to order a counsel fee award if that award is deserved. To do otherwise would be tantamount to enabling additional frivolous bad faith applications. At least a signal would be sent that bad conduct ultimately has a cost. Down the road, that spouse may be forced to pay for their misdeeds.


Proper Courtroom Decorum, Please

It is extremely important to conduct yourself with courtroom manners that demonstrate respect to the judge and to the “system”, even if you are upset with a judge’s decisions or the all-too-often slow movement of the divorce process.
It is even more critical to retain an attorney who can be counted on to create a positive impression with the Court on your behalf. Your attorney is your connection to the Court. In a world where perception often becomes reality, you want to know that your attorney will present a dignified, professional face to the Court. After all, your attorney’s “face” becomes your face to the judge.
When you meet with your prospective attorney, it is essential to assess his/her knowledge of family law. But you must also assess whether this person can be counted on to conduct him/herself in the professional manner that you deserve.

Counsel Fee Awards – Settlement Drafting Tip

Litigants can agree in their Matrimonial Settlement Agreement that specific counsel fees will be awarded to one party if the other party violates certain aspects of the settlement agreement.  In such a scenario, as a general rule, the courts will seek to enforce that agreement.  Judges have wide latitude when interpreting a domestic relations agreement (such as a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement).  However, if it was the intent of the parties to promote a stable agreement by requiring reimbursement by the party who was unnecessarily forced to pay an attorney, a judge is likely to order that the offending party pay counsel fees to the other.