New York Domestic Relations Law section 237(a) provides:
“(a) In any action or proceeding brought . . . for a divorce . . . the court may direct either spouse . . . to pay such sum or sums of money directly to the attorney of the other spouse to enable that spouse to carry on or defend the action or proceeding, as in the court's discretion, justice requires, having regard to the circumstance of the case and of the respective parties.”
In O'Shea v O'Shea, 93 NY2d 187(1999), the New York State Court of Appeals stated that Domestic Relations Law section 237 “is designed to redress the economic disparity between the monied spouse and the non-monied spouse.” The court further stated that “[t]he courts are to see that the scales of justice are not unbalanced by the weight of the wealthier litigant's wallet.”
Therefore, in order to prevent the less moneyed spouse from being at a disadvantage in the divorce action, the court may award attorney fees upon a motion or order to show cause based upon the facts and circumstance of the particular case.