Counsel Fee Awards in Family Court Custody Cases

New York law provides that a party in a custody proceeding in Family Court may be entitled to having the other party pay some or all of the cost of their litigation, whether they were previously married or not.

The key word here is MAY as absent certain statutory circumstances (like the willful violation of child support under Section 438 of the Family Court Act), there is no absolute right. Therefore, it is highly dependent on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Many times these decisions take into account the conduct of the parties that caused the initial petition to be filed, and/or the conduct of the parties during the litigation of the case. The relative finances of each party may also be relevant, but it is not dispositive. For example, on March 26, 2020, In the Matter of Dean E.H. v. Deborah R., the Appellate Division upheld a $60,000.00 award of counsel fees on a custody matter in Family Court stating that the award was a proper exercise of Family Court’s discretion under DRL 237(b) and “the fact that the mother was able to pay her own attorneys’ fees was not a bar to an award of legal fees in her favor.”

Of course, a person will almost always have to actually spend that money up front to pay their attorney, but it is always good practice to make sure that, if the circumstances warrant it, an application be made to the Judge seeking to recoup what you have spent.

If you struggling with receiving your court-ordered parenting time, wish to change the terms of your custody agreement, or are dealing with any issue related to your children that may require you having to go to Court, an experienced family law attorney can help. Call us at 631-392-4949 or email us at if you wish to discuss your particular situation as it relates to the cost of litigation and how we may be able to help secure payment from your ex.

The information and suggestions contained herein are not to be construed as legal advice and may have been provided by a third-party source

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