Pursuant to the case of Williams v. Williams, 59 N.J. 229 (1971) an award of counsel fees in a New Jersey divorce action is within the discretion of the court. The Williams case stands for the proposition that the court must look at the requesting party's need, the other party's ability to pay, and the good faith/bad faith put forth on behalf of each party. Additional factors that the courts must also consider include, but are not limited to, the complexity of the case, the quality of the financial positions among the parties, the spouses' respective shares of equitable distribution of the marital assets, and the applicant's share in the equitable distribution process and the liquidity of same. Furthermore, counsel fees are required to be reasonable under the circumstances. Courts will look at the time and labor required, novelty and difficulty of questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform services properly. The courts will also look at whether or not the fee charged by the attorneys is customarily charged in the locality for similar services. Counsel fees are always an integral part of a divorce proceeding. It is absolutely essential that you are provided with a thorough understanding of this issue prior to engaging in the divorce process. It is imperative for a divorcing spouse to receive a fair divorce settlement, that the playing field be level, and that both spouses have an equal ability to obtain competent and experienced legal counsel.
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