Davis v. Davis, Docket No. A-4739-14T4 (N.J. Super. App. Div. Oct. 28, 2016)
In this case, the parties appeal from six orders of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County. Most of the orders are related to the payment of fees to an attorney appointed by the court to act as fiscal agent to “oversee, implement and monitor” a consent order agreed to by the parties. After the parties divorced, they agreed, by written agreement that this fiscal agent would continue in that capacity post-divorce to continue to help them manage and sell numerous parcels of real property.
Almost immediately after the parties entered the written agreement, the husband failed to cooperate with the fiscal agent. The fiscal agent then filed multiple motions to enforce the provisions of the agreement, to collect fees on behalf of all the professionals who participated in the litigation, and to recover his own fees. The trial court awarded the fiscal agent fees and costs, but the trial court did not determine whether any of the fees awarded was for work done by the fiscal agent acting in his capacity or was for work done to collect the fees owed to him.
The husband appealed the Superior Court’s order. On appeal, the Supreme Court found that the Superior court properly granted the fiscal agent fees for performing work in his capacity as fiscal agent. However, the court found that the fiscal agent could not be paid for any work done in connection with seeking paying of his fees.
The Supreme Court reversed the fees the trial court explicitly granted for purposes of compensating the fiscal agent for litigating fee recovery, and remanded the matter back to the trial court to address what other fees the fiscal agent recovered in connection with the litigation he brought to recover his fees.
The lesson to be learned here is that courts will ensure that appointed experts in divorce cases are paid for their services. Make certain that you are well informed and that you approve of an expert’s services before you agree to retain them.