Merrick v. Merrick
Justice Lawrence Ecker
In a contested divorce action, husband's counsel wrote the court requesting it rescind a prior order directing counsel to produce his billing records. Wife's counsel opposed the application. The court noted Domestic Relations Law §237(a), amended in 2010, requires both parties and their attorneys to file affidavits detailing any financial agreements between the party and counsel. Husband's counsel cited Match v. Match, but the court noted the Match court held it was an abuse of discretion to shift the burden of proving plaintiff's counsel's fee to defendant's counsel. The court stated the amount of legal fees each attorney received and billed for, or was currently owed, is relevant to the prospective award of legal fees. It noted such information permits the court to assess the extent and appropriateness of the work claimed to have been performed. Also, the information provides a measure of the ability of each party to pay for counsel's labor and services. The court ruled §237 requires mutual disclosure in such applications, concluding that it would adhere to its prior decision and ordering counsel to produce his billing records.