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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Third Department Holds That Absent Stipulation No Pendente Lite Counsel Fee Award Without A Hearing

In Bush v Bush, 46 A.D.3d 1140, 848 N.Y.S.2d 721 (3d Dept, 2007) Defendant cross-moved for among other things, interim counsel fees in the amount of $85,172.81. Supreme Court awarded defendant interim counsel fees of $25,000. The Appellate Division reversed. It held that to justify an award of counsel fees, a sufficient evidentiary basis must exist for the court to evaluate the respective financial circumstances of the parties and value of the services rendered' Moreover, Supreme Court cannot award counsel fees based solely upon written submissions, unless so stipulated to by the parties. The proof submitted concerning the financial circumstances of the parties was limited to written submissions by respective counsel. As the record did not contain evidence of a stipulation agreeing thereto, the proof of the financial circumstances of the parties was inadequate for Supreme Court to properly assess the award of counsel fees. The Appellate Division reversed and remitted to Supreme Court for an evidentiary hearing (citing its 2003 decision in Yarinsky v.Yarinsky, 2 A.D.3d 1108 [3 Dept 2003] ).

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