Husband Ordered to Pay Wife’s Attorneys Fees for 12 Day Trial

Josh Tope had brought a divorce action in November 2011 against his wife. He had worked as an engineering consultant earning $46,000 per year. He had previously worked as an engineer earning $90,000 per year. He gave up his job to manage real estate. He presumed this would be more lucrative. It turned out to not be lucrative at all.

The Trial

There was a trial before Judge Patrick Leis, sitting in a Supreme Court Part in Suffolk County. Judge Leis ruled Mr. Tope had “engaged in obstructionist conduct”. This conduct caused the trial to last twelve days. As a result of his obstructionist, inappropriate conduct, Judge Leis ordered he pay his wife’s attorneys fees.

Judge Leis stated in his opinion, “this case highlights the difficulties that arise when one party uses their self represented status as both a sword and a shield in an attempt to gain undue advantage and behaves in a manner that the court would never tolerate from an attorney.” Judge Leis’ position was the divorce trial should have lasted no longer than four days. Judge Leis went on to state, “simple justice dictates that the defendant who chooses to function from a position of anger and resentment not be allowed to purposely drive up the plaintiff’s counsel fees and act in such an inappropriate manner, without being made responsible for all of the trial fees.”

Trial Issues

The issues at trial solely dealt with outstanding debts such as mortgages, credit cards and legal fees. Prior to the trial moving forward, Tope requested Judge Leis recuse himself from handling the trial. Tope threatened to complain to the Commission on Judicial Conduct if Judge Leis did not step down from handling the case. Judge Leis did not step down finding Tope’s request to be frivolous.

Inappropriate Action at Trial

Judge Leis found Tope acted in an aggressive, inappropriate manner during the course of the trial. He ignored the Judge’s rulings, and he failed to follow the judge’s instructions. He shouted at the plaintiff’s attorney in an aggressive, hostile manner. Judge Leis took the position Tope took this action to punish his wife and run up her attorney’s fees.

Judge Leis ruled despite the fact Tope was not earning more than his wife at the time of the trial, he had the potential to earn $90,000 per year. The judge therefore imputed $90,000 a year as imputed income to Tope and found he was in a superior position based on his imputed income to pay for the wife’s attorney’s fees.


It is not a good idea to misbehave in a courtroom and anger the judge.

protecting dads and kidsElliot Schlissel is a father’s rights lawyer representing fathers on divorces and Family Court cases throughout the Metropolitan New York area.

About Elliot S. Schlissel

Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has spent more that 30 years representing individuals in matrimonial and family law cases.