Pro Se Spouse Ordered to Pay Fees for Divorce Trial

, New York Law Journal


By the time Joshi-Tope discharged her first attorney, to appease her husband, they had attended few court appearance and the parties had exchanged little discovery.

She paid Homayoon a $1,275 retainer and then an additional $2,000. Leis said Homayoon's charge of $215 an hour was "extremely reasonable" given his experience, his efforts during the arduous divorce and the results.

"Mr. Homayoon maintained his composure and forcefully argued the plaintiff's positions providing the plaintiff with the ability to stand up to a man, who the credible evidence established, had intimidated and attempted to control her life for the better portion of the parties' marriage," Leis said.

Under Domestic Relations Law §237, there's a rebuttable presumption that attorney fees shall be awarded to the "less monied spouse."

Even though he is unemployed, Leis found Tope capable of working full-time and earning at least $90,000. Meanwhile, Joshi-Tope continues to earn less than $50,000 a year.

"Despite the husband's protestations to the contrary, an objective view of the record, including his imputed future earnings, shows that he is in a superior financial position," Leis said.

When awarding fees, the judge said, the court should also consider any delay incurred as a result of a party's obstructionist tactics.

"As a result of the defendant's lack of clarity in his presentation of evidence and the rambling nature of his post trial memorandum, the court was required to order numerous days of trial testimony in an effort to search the record for any evidence supporting the defendant's amorphous positions, thereby delaying this decision," the judge said.

Therefore, Leis said, the husband is ordered to pay his wife's counsel fees.

When reached by the Law Journal, Tope declined to comment.

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