Most divorce attorneys will shy away from any question of the ultimate cost of legal services. Retainers vary widely by attorney. Hourly rates vary, as well. Some divorce attorneys will start with a low retainer, but you may have to keep re-paying a new retainer monthly, as the end cost could be quire high.
A conversation about fees always begins at your consult with your attorney. If your attorney does not bring it up first, you should be concerned. Our job is to provide you with an education. Our fees are part of that education.
Unless an attorney is willing to provide a flat fee service for a family law representation-and if the attorney does, be wary, very wary-no attorney can predict the total cost of legal services.
What I like to do is provide likely ranges of counsel fees depending upon how the legal issue plays out.
For example, preparing for and attending a domestic violence hearing tends to have a finite period of time, and therefore, it is often a bit easier to predict a cost range. The same is true for any shorter representation. Included in this example would be the preparation of a Marital Separation Agreement, Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement. We can often provide a range of costs for drafting these agreements, but we will candidly tell you that the negotiation of the agreements could cause fees to increase.
The real challenge is the contested divorce, custody case or other family law proceeding. The more experience the divorce attorney has, the more candid your attorney will be with you about the inability to predict the cost of representing you. However, your divorce attorney will explain to you precisely how fees will work, and in a later blog, I will explore how you can minimize those fees.
One final word here. Often, you have no ability to pay for a divorce attorney. Experienced divorce attorneys know how to handle this situation. We can ask the Court to have your spouse contribute to your fees. The Court looks at who controls the assets, who has more income and who has the ability to contribute to fees in making this determination.
Never be discouraged by thinking that you do not have the financial ability to retain an attorney. Instead, sit down for a complimentary consultation with a divorce attorney to receive a great education and learn your options.