Who Pays for a Divorce in New York?

You or your spouse have made the decision to end your marriage.

Depending on how your divorce proceedings evolve, the cost of your divorce can easily climb into the thousands, tens of thousands of dollars or more.

You may be wondering “will my spouse pay for my divorce lawyer?”

To answer this question, please read on, where we will discuss:

  1. The cost of divorce in New York
  2. New York law regarding who pays the fees for a divorce
  3. What courts consider when a request for counsel fees is made

How Much Will a Divorce Cost in New York?

The financial toll of a divorce in the state of New York will depend on a multitude of factors.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Divorce filing status (contested or uncontested)
  • The complexity of your divorce;
  • The level of cooperation of the parties and counsel; and
  • The parties’ financial resources

Divorce Filing Status

There are two types of divorce in New York — uncontested and contested.

In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree to all aspects of the dissolution of their marriage and are willing to amicably resolve their matter. This is obviously less expensive than a contested divorce.

In a contested divorce, the parties do not agree on some or all aspects of the dissolution which may include:

  • Custody/parenting time
  • Division of the marital estate
  • child support and/or spousal support

A contested divorce is inherently more expensive than an uncontested divorce.

The Complexity of Your Divorce

Every facet of your divorce...

  • The value of your marital estate and complexity of the assets and liabilities
  • The complexity of the streams of income/cash flow
  • The need for experts
  • Child custody and parenting time
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Etc.

... could impact the time required and ultimately, the cost to proceed with the divorce process.

If you cannot reach a settlement, you will be eventually required to go to trial. Trials are time consuming and expensive.

With over 20 years of experience, our firm, Winter & Grossman, is highly-qualified to represent you in matters of matrimonial and family law whether you and your spouse amicably reach a settlement, or your case proceeds to trial.


If you are filing an uncontested divorce in the state of New York and choose to proceed without legal representation, you will pay a minimum of $370 in filing fees.

If you hire legal representation (for an uncontested or contested divorce) you will incur the additional financial responsibility of attorney fees, and possibly expert fees if needed conduct appraisals or help determine other issues.

Divorce attorneys typically require an initial retainer which is a deposit or down payment, and charge an hourly rate for time spent on the matter which is charged against the retainer and should be billed monthly.

Hourly rates depend on your attorney and the general geographic area in which the matter is pending, and can range based upon the experience of the attorney. Our hourly rates at Winter & Grossman are competitive based upon our experience.

Attorneys’ Fees: New York Law

In 2010, legislation was passed in New York that established a presumption as to who pays attorneys’ fees in divorce proceedings — generally speaking, the “monied spouse” contributes to the fees of the non-monied spouse.

Section 237 of the New York Domestic Relations Law on Counsel Fees and Expenses states, in part:

“There shall be rebuttable presumption that counsel fees shall be awarded to the less monied spouse.”

It is important to note:

  • An application for an award of divorce attorney fees must be made to the Court
  • An award is not guaranteed and will be determined by the court
  • When counsel fees are awarded, the award is rarely 100% of the fees requested

Intention of New York’s Domestic Relations Law § 237

The intention of Domestic Relations Law § 237 is to ensure both parties in a divorce are adequately represented regardless of income so that the “monied” cannot use his/her financial advantage against the less-monied spouse.


When an application for the award of attorneys’ fees in New York is granted, it can be an incentive for both parties to agree on a settlement.

Determining who pays for a divorce is stressful and can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

At Winter & Grossman, our philosophy is to help you navigate your divorce with compassion, understanding, and efficiency.

Application for the Award of Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses

When seeking an award of counsel fees, an application must be submitted to the Court in proper form. Although it is best to submit an application for counsel fees early in your divorce process, additional applications can be made during the case.

You will be required to present a significant amount of financial documentation with an explicit request for an award of counsel fees.

Your application must include:

  • A statement of your financial condition (income, expenses, assets and liabilities)
  • A copy of your attorney’s retainer reflecting the retainer amount and the hourly rates
  • Copies of your attorney’s invoices for services rendered in reasonable detail

In the state of New York, you do not need to prove poverty or exhaust all of your financial resources for counsel fees to be awarded.

Advance on Equitable Distribution

If you are not awarded counsel fees and cannot pay your attorney, you may consider speaking to your legal team about an advance on the portion of the marital estate you expect to receive through equitable distribution.

An advance on equitable distribution may allow you to cover the cost of your legal representation to ensure that you are on equal footing with your spouse throughout your divorce proceedings.

Questions About Divorce Attorney Fees? Schedule a Consultation with Winter & Grossman.

Answering the question “who pays for a divorce?” is not black and white.

Whether you feel you may be entitled to an award of counsel fees or you feel you may need to prepare to rebut a request for payment of counsel fees, Winter & Grossman is available to assist you through the process — with dignity.

We take a personal approach with all of our clients and offer a free consultation to determine if our team can represent you.

We are based in Garden City, New York, and serve clients in Nassau and Suffolk, Westchester, and throughout the New York Metropolitan Area.