The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pigott, J.
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
Husband and wife were married in January 1991 and have one child. Husband has four children from a previous marriage and is required to pay both maintenance and child support.
At the time the parties married, both were working attorneys. Wife stopped working outside the home when the parties' son was three years old. Husband was a partner at a law firm from 1968 until 1999, and thereafter became a managing director at a major investment banking firm until 2001. Husband also earned additional income by serving on the Board of Directors of several publicly-traded companies.
Prior to the marriage, husband owned a home on approximately 160 acres of land in Claverack, New York. During the marriage the parties spent approximately $2 million to renovate and improve the property. While husband played a larger role in these improvements, wife also participated in some of the project's details.
In November 2001, wife commenced this action for divorce after discovering husband was having an extramarital affair. Prior to trial, she made an application for interim maintenance and child support. Supreme Court imputed an average annual income of $2,273,680 to husband and ordered him to pay $18,465 monthly maintenance to wife and child support of $10,625 per month. Husband was also ordered to pay the wife interim counsel fees of $100,000.
Wife was awarded a judgment of divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. A fourteen-day trial ensued on the issues of equitable distribution, maintenance and child support.
As relevant to this appeal, the court recognized that the Claverack property was the husband's separate property, but held the funds spent on the renovations to be marital property subject to equitable distribution. The court awarded 50% of the appreciation of the Claverack estate to wife.
The court also credited wife with 50% of the marital property husband used to pay the maintenance and child support obligations to his first wife.
After considering that wife had not worked outside the home for nine years and that it would take six years to develop her career, the court awarded wife durational maintenance of $6,000 per month for six years.
Finally, the court awarded wife legal fees and expert fees to be determined by a referee due in part to the fact that wife and her son "have suffered day to day crises resulting from the [husband's] harassment of them."
The Appellate Division modified the judgment of Supreme Court on both the law and the facts by, among other things, reducing the wife's share of the enhanced value of the Claverack property to 25% and by crediting husband for his pendente lite maintenance obligations (49 AD3d 348). Two Justices dissented.
The majority noted that husband had consistently been less than forthcoming regarding his income and that Supreme Court had found him incredible in the reporting of his income and assets (id. at 360-361). The majority therefore upheld the imposition of legal and expert fees on husband, noting that he "engaged in a pattern of obstructionist conduct which unnecessarily delayed and increased the legal fees incurred in the litigation" (id. at 361).
Husband appealed as of right based on the two Justice dissent and the Appellate Division granted ...