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A judge in Suffolk County ruled in a family case that, even with a release, the former spouse is still obligated to pay for the other’s ex-spouse’s legal fees, the New York Law Journal, reports. DaSilva & Hilowitz LLP v. Style, 2977/05; “Release Did Not Extinguish Husband’s Obligation to Pay Wife’s Legal Fees,” New York Law Journal, Tuesday, April 12, 2011.

In this case there was already a 1997 Family Court stipulation making the husband, the defendant, responsible for all legal fees. In 2003 the court ruled via summary judgment, a decision without trial, in favor of the wife, plaintiff. This decision was never appealed.

A general release was signed in favor of the defendant. Therefore, he claimed that this release extinguishes his obligation to pay for the ex-wife’s legal fees. The ex-husband also argues that he did not have to pay for attorney’s fees because his former spouse never included attorney’s fees on the stipulation.

However, the court disagrees. The judge ruled that the defendant’s obligation to pay for legal fees comes, not from the stipulation, but from the court order, which was never appealed. The court also observed that the ex-wife had to litigate to get rid of debt her former husband should have paid nearly 13 years ago. The judge even condemned the defendant’s actions as “frivolous, intentional and contumacious.”

We at Jayson Lutzky, PC are following closely how the courts are recently handling family cases in order to diligently work on behalf of our clients. If you have legal questions about family issues, and you are in need of legal advice, please call us or visit us for a free initial consultation.