There are approximately 2.2 million marriages in place in the United States right now, and that accounts for approximately 6.9 marriages per 1,000 American residents. At the same time, there are at any given time in the country, approximately 827 thousand divorces in progress, or just coming to a resolution.
It’s no mystery as to why the industry of family law is booming, but that doesn’t mean you have to go broke if you find yourself needing a divorce lawyer. Before you make the mistake of self-representing during an important time in your life, discover all that you need to know about divorce lawyer fees and how to manage them.
What Are Typical Divorce Lawyer Fees?
Every family law case is different, and so the fees for one divorce or custody matter may be drastically different from another, even with the same attorney. But where you live and what you need out of the family law process will be determining factors for your divorce attorney fees.
A divorce in New York City, for example, may be significantly more expensive than a divorce in rural Wisconsin, even if the exact same outcome would occur.
Divorce lawyer fees generally start with a retainer up front, that can be anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 depending on the complexity of your case. In the case of a high asset divorce, those fees could go even higher.
In a high conflict divorce, divorce lawyers are very helpful in smoothing rough waters between two parties. Lawyers can also help in matters such as helping you understand crucial details in a domestic violence protection order for example.
What Happens At Your First Meeting?
You will generally pay a consultation fee for your meeting, which will be the equivalent of one hour’s time at the attorney’s hourly rate, and fee discussions will ensue from there.
You may be asked in that meeting for a retainer fee and will have a certain amount of time to get that ready.
If you are the party filing for divorce, you may not need that time, as you may have organized the finances of your divorce ahead of time.
If you are the party that has been served with divorce papers, you may want to consider the overall financing of your divorce before you book that first consultation.
Some divorce lawyers also offer free consultations and can apprise you of any of their fee arrangements and issues during that consultation.
Start with learning what to expect. For instance, if children are involved, you may want to read up on tips to win in child custody battles before you book that first meeting.
What Is Included in Lawyer Fees?
For any legal matter, there are always a number of costs. You could have filing costs, attorney hourly fees, costs of a trial, and some lawyers will even charge you for paperclips. You may also have photocopying costs or costs for travel for your attorney to and from court for you.
A filing in court for you or with the court clerk could be one fee, while an attorney may charge you a flat rate for the day if they are expected to be in court for you.
Daily rates for court attendances can run as high as $10,000 in some cases. But many divorce attorneys will try and have you settling with the other party to help you avoid those fees.
As much as lawyers do make their living from fees, they also want to keep their clients happy and know that running up the bill may have their client going to someone else.
Any time a lawyer consults with you, even for a signature, could send their hourly clock ticking, and your bill rising.
Do Divorce Lawyers Offer Flat Rates?
Every legal scenario is different, and not every divorce will require a lengthy proceeding or discovery process. You may be looking for a simple annulment for example, in a legal situation where both parties want the same thing – out of the marriage.
In a case like this, you may find that divorce lawyers will offer you a flat rate for simple services. It could be as low as a few hundred dollars or may run you as high as a few thousand.
It will all depend on how much time the attorney expects to spend on your matter. If they are only writing a letter on your behalf, for example, that could be a very inexpensive divorce matter.
But if there is a lot involved with your case, you may be charged a flat fee for every service.
This could include a consultancy fee, a fee for filing something, a fee for court appearances, and so on.
These are questions you want to ask during your first meeting, and even during your first phone call when you are looking for a divorce lawyer.
A flat fee is a fee that is one charge for one service. A retainer, on the other hand, is a lump sum that your attorney will deduct hourly rates from every time they work on your file.
Can You Get Your Legal Costs Returned?
Every legal scenario that finds you in court enables you the option of getting your court and legal costs back unless you agree with the other party that you are not pursuing them.
Generally speaking, whoever is successful in a legal matter is the party that is most likely to be awarded costs by the judge or a court. So if you are going to a divorce attorney for example, because someone has filed a frivolous family law motion against you, and they lose, you may be able to get those legal fees back.
If this becomes a protracted case that goes on for years and you still win, you may get even more costs back.
Most family law courts across the country frown on using children or family matters as a frivolous way to exact revenge on someone. The only consequence a court has in those situations is to charge you, by forcing you or another party to pay for the costs.
It’s a simple formula. If you waste the court’s time, the court has options for that.
But the same applies to other parties as well, who may be the ones sending you to court in the first place.
Every good lawyer will want you to try and recover costs, for both of your sakes.
Consult an Expert
Many divorces today can be managed through self-representation, but it is always better to go through these things with a legal ally who knows how to help you navigate these rough waters.
The divorce rate in America still hovers at around 50 percent, with the average marriage length in America today approximately 8 years long. As such, the family law industry was an 11 billion dollar industry in 2018.
Divorce lawyer fees might seem expensive at first, but when you stand to lose so much in a family law matter, they can be affordable and even save you thousands in the long-term.
Whether you need to simply create a child visitation schedule, or you have a high conflict situation, contact Pacific Northwest Family Law today to book a consultation that gets you one step closer to peace of mind.