the NY Supreme Court has exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over “matrimonial
CPLR 105(p) defines a matrimonial action as a divorce, annulment, dissolution,
judicial separation, declaring the nullity of a void marriage or declaring the validity or
nullity of a foreign divorce judgment
NY divorce lawyers must give a client a “bill of rights”
of the total legal fee.
If she neglects to do
so, she forfeits the right to a legal fee
Retainer agreement is different than an engagement letter – an engagement letter is not
signed by the client.
The retainer agreement is.
A Retainer letter is important to get
- matrimonial lawyers must get them and file with
the court – because if they don’t, down the road, there may be a fee dispute – and if so,
and the client goes to another lawyer, and tells them they don’t have a retainer letter, you
are not going to be able to recover any fees
Contingent fees in “matrimonial actions” are prohibited
But, in post-divorce proceedings, i.e. collecting child support, they are ok.
Discourages the client from exercising his/her right to discharge the lawyer at any
No contingency fees in Marital Actions – but CPLR 104p specifically defines what
constitutes “marital actions”.
Post-divorce collection cases – it is ok to take contingent
Sex with a client is prohibited
Because you are taking advantage of the client –
taking advantage of the situation/knowledge you have of the marriage problems.
must be submitted to the client at least every 60 days
Liens to secure the fee must be approved by the court on notice to the other spouse.
court-approved lien on the client’s residence cannot be foreclosed while the client is still
living in that house.
legal dispute regarding a fee, on an amount of $1,000
arbitration can be demanded, but only by the client, unless earlier the attorney and client
had mutually agreed that either lawyer or client could demand to arbitrate a fee dispute.
Absent an agreement, the lawyer cannot demand a fee arbitration.
Not limited to matrimonials – applies to every civil action in NY.
The attorney must give his/her client notice and 30 days to demand arbitration before the
attorney can commence a law suit for the fee.
With an arbitration, you don’t need to have a lawyer.
You can bring it before a bar
association where you can act without counsel.
If the arbitrator becomes aware of professional misconduct< she shall forward such
evidence to the appellate division grievance committee after arbitration
Either party can seek de novo judicial review if unsatisfied with the results at arbitration
– but, arbitration award is inadmissible in the court proceeding, and the arbitrator can’t be
called as a witness.