Krafte, J.J.D.R.C. (temporarily assigned).
[183 NJSuper Page 547] In the ever-burgeoning field of matrimonial litigation it is not at all uncommon that the party's attorney who files the complaint
is not the attorney on the scene at the final judgment. As a matter of experience, it is not so rare that three, four or more attorneys will represent one party in a substantial case. If that party is the wife, the probabilities are that both attorneys have contracted their right -- and, perhaps, obligation, -- to seek all or part of their counsel fees from the husband. A situation arises, therefore, where at the conclusion of the case, a husband is faced with claims from both attorneys for fees, on simultaneous applications. Such is the case here. No appellate court of New Jersey has addressed this problem. We address it now.
The genesis for awarding counsel fees in a matrimonial matter is R. 4:42-9(a)(1):
In a matrimonial matter, the court in its discretion, may make an allowance . . . on final determination, to be paid by any party to the action, including, if deemed to be just, any party successful in the action. . . .
This will form the touchstone of what follows.
Thomas W. Williams, Esq., has filed a notice of motion seeking counsel fees from defendant, claiming representation of plaintiff from May 1980 through April 1981, an effective one-year period, from summons to the termination of his services during the pendency of this action.
Blackman & Effron, Esqs., have filed a notice of motion seeking counsel fees from defendant, claiming representation of plaintiff from April 28, 1981 to the final hearing on October 29, 1981.
This court notes that there does not appear to be an effective overlapping of claimed services.
Defendant, in specific response to Williams' application, takes the position that he "[d]oes not have the right to apply for counsel fees" and, further, that "he no longer represents" plaintiff, that "he voluntarily withdrew from this case" and that Williams is in no "position to demand a counsel fee contribution from me under the present status of the case law." (Emphasis
supplied). No such case law, if any exists, has been furnished to this court.
As to defendant's response to Blackman & Effron's fee application, defenses are raised which are not relevant to the proposition ...