Post-Judgment Attorney Fees Awarded
- September 18, 2014
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In Lind v. Lind, the Defendant Thomas Lind appealed from a 2012 Family Court post-judgment order stemming from his divorce that directed him to indemnify the Plaintiff, Marita Lind, for legal fees that she incurred to reach a settlement regarding their marital residence and because she was forced to file enforcement Motions. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Family Division. The Plaintiff and Defendant were married on January 4, 1992. They were divorced in 2010 and their final divorce judgment contained partial judgment orders that pertained to specific issues in the case. One in particular, pertained to the disposition of the couple’s marital residence through equitable distribution. The parties, at first, financed the home through a mortgage held by Chase Bank and later took out an additional mortgage through Wilmington Trust Company (WTC). In 2005, M&T Bank extended the couple a line of credit, secured by the second mortgage, to them for $107,800. After the parties separated in 2009, the trial court ordered the Defendant who was living in the home, to maintain all recurring costs pending the sale of the residence. The Defendant defaulted on the loan payments and M&T accelerated the sum due on the line of credit. Pursuant to the parties’ equitable distribution negotiations and agreement the sale of the home was to be divided equally among them. In 2011, M&T filed a complaint against the Plaintiff and Defendant to recover the money due for the line of credit. Soon thereafter, the Defendant filed for bankruptcy and therefore the M&T and foreclosure actions were stayed for him. The Plaintiff actively defended the actions with her counsel. In 2012, the Plaintiff settled with M&T at a legal cost to her of $15,000 that she borrowed from her sick father. Plaintiff then filed Motions with the court seeking indemnification from the Defendant for the $15,000 she expended to reach a settlement with M&T as well as for attorney’s fees she incurred to enforce prior orders issued against him. The trial court ordered the Defendant to repay the Plaintiff for a portion of the Plaintiff’s counsel fees involved in reaching the settlement with M&T and for the Court Order Enforcement Motions because her attorney’s efforts protected his interests in regard to the settlement and his dismissal of the court orders necessitated her filing of the Motions. The Defendant appealed from this decision. In its holding the Appellate Division found that “an allowance for counsel fees is permitted to any party accorded relief following the filing of a motion in aid of litigant’s rights, R. 1:10-3, or to any party in a divorce action, R. 5:3-5(c).” Barr v. Barr, 418 N.J. Super. 18, 46 (App. Div. 2011). In this case, the Appellate Court found that an award of counsel fees to the Plaintiff was proper because the Defendant repeatedly failed to comply with court orders and because the fees were reasonably incurred in efforts to secure the Defendant’s compliance with the orders mandating him to pay for the expenses involved with the marital home. The Appellate Division also agreed with the lower court that the Plaintiff should be partially indemnified for the legal costs she incurred to settle with M&T because the Defendant received a benefit from the efforts. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your divorce judgment it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modification, attorney’s fees, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, divorce, uncontested divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.