Fee Structure for a Divorce Lawyer
The cost of divorce is widely variable depending on the complexity of the case. As a rule, couples with many assets and minor children are likely to have a complex divorce requiring more time and expense.
Conversely, a young married couple with no children and few assets will have a relatively uncomplicated, less expensive divorce. There is no “one size fits all” divorce. Accordingly, each family law attorney will have a fee structure that will include options to fit the client’s needs.
A family law attorney may offer his or her services at an hourly rate. The hourly fee structure may be capped at a specific dollar amount or open-ended.
If the fee is capped, the attorney will only bill up to a certain amount regardless of extra hours. If the fee is open-ended, the client is charged for all time and services.
A law office should provide clients with information regarding how billable hours are calculated. Typically, there is a time increment that is used as a billing unit.
If a firm charges for every one-tenth of an hour, the client will be charged in six minute increments. The time spent on each task is rounded up to a six minute unit. An hourly bill will include a time and task breakdown for the client.
Generally speaking, fees vary geographically. Lawyers operating in locations with higher costs of living will demand a higher hourly rate.
An attorney’s rate will also be determined by their experience in divorce proceedings as well as their record of how well they have served their clients. An experienced divorce lawyer in Orlando will demand a higher fee than a rookie divorce lawyer in Birmingham.
A retainer is often required, upon which, the attorney may draw. This means that the client deposits a certain amount of money with the attorney. As the attorney performs services and tasks for the client, the retainer is used to pay the bill.
As the retainer is depleted, the attorney may require the client to replenish it if it falls below a certain amount. Retainers vary with each attorney and in keeping with the complexity of the divorce.
Experienced family law attorneys are often able to review a case and estimate how much time and effort it will take to get the job done. In these cases, a divorce lawyer may offer a flat fee regardless of the time it takes. A flat fee scenario may be suitable for a simple dissolution.
Settling a divorce out of court may not be possible. Even though a client is on a flat fee, court time may be billed at an hourly rate. The rate for court time may be billed differently from the standard hourly fee schedule. Litigation is time consuming, costly and can be unpredictable. Additional support staff and documents may add to the cost.
Support staff such as legal secretaries, paralegals and administrative personnel may be used in some cases and are a valuable addition to a legal team. They can and do take care of routine questions, and may be involved in preparing documents and communicating with the client. Support staff may be billed at a different hourly rate than the attorney.
Miscellaneous Fees and Charges
In addition to attorney fees, clients will usually have other charges. Postage, office supplies, copy charges, court filing fees and a host of other charges and fees may appear on the bill.
Outside services such as courier services and process servers may have to be paid, and these charges will be passed along to the client.
A family law practice will likely have printed information detailing the various options and financial considerations for a potential client. Every client should be informed regarding what they will be charged and what to expect on their bill.