In the case of Quinn v. Quinn, a wife who lied about her cohabitation was hit with an enormous counsel fee award. In Quinn, the husband argued that his alimony payments totaling over $68,000 per year should be terminated due his wife’s cohabitation with another man. After an eleven month trial, the court agreed with the husband and suspended his alimony obligation during the period of cohabitation.
The trial court also felt that the wife blatantly lied about the cohabitation and forced the parties to go through an unnecessarily lengthy trial. As a result, the court ordered that the wife was to pay the husband’s attorney’s fees in the amount of $145,000. Rather than require her to pay him all of the money up front, the court gave the husband a credit for the attorney’s fees against future alimony payments.
The wife appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision to award the husband counsel fees. The Appellate Division highlighted the fact that a party’s bad faith should be a significant consideration when awarding counsel fees. Here, even though the wife earned under $20,000 per year, her bad faith was so evident that an award of counsel fees was appropriate. This case should serve as a warning to those litigating in bad faith – a counsel fee award may be around the corner, even if you have a nominal income.