Bad Faith

Apple Sulit-Peralejo, a partner in our Atlantic City office blogged earlier today regarding counsel fees and bad faith. 

Often counsel fee decisions come down to findings of bad faith and the case law certainly is replete with references to bad faith.  However, when Court Rule 5:3-5(c) was revised about 10 years ago, the standard was relaxed such that bad faith was no longer necessary, but rather, the "reasonableness" of the positions became the standard.  Or did it?  Reading the cases, such as the one cited in Apple’s post. a lot of time was spent on the issue of bad faith.

That said, when you see large counsel fee awards, it is usually after a trial.  In my experience, though few cases are tried (about 1 to 2%), when cases get tried, it is because one party’s conduct or the positions that the took were so absurd that a finding of bad faith is almost inevitable.

Earlier this week, after a 5 day trial that took place over the better part of a year, my client was awarded $40,000 in legal fees.  In this case, she was the parent of primary residence in the parties’ divorce agreement.  She told her ex-husband that she was going to move to Monmouth County from Hudson County with the parties’ child, to live with her fiance’.  The husband made a motion for custody, essentially seeking to preclude our client from moving with her child.  The case law is pretty clear that the custodial parent can move within the state of NJ.  After we cited that in our brief in opposition to the motion, he concocted a new argument that he was the de facto custodial parent and the trial followed on this issue.  During the trial we were able to prove that his claim was bogus and that for a very short period of time post divorce when he had the child more than 50% of the time, it was because he violated the Agreement and refused to return the child.  This conduct as well as his lies were simply unreasonable.  Similarly, the Court found that he was actively trying to remove our client from the child’s life.  This too was unreasonable.Continue Reading If I Win, Do I Get Counsel Fees? – Another Perspective