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The Cost of Contested Divorce and the Process of Retaining an Attorney

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2022 | Divorce

Divorces can be emotional, painful and sometimes bitterly fought. Every divorce is somewhat unique and while some can be wrapped up quickly with little or no fighting, others can involve protracted litigation and tie the parties up in court for several months or even years.

The process can also be expensive. A good divorce lawyer will typically cost the client between $2,000.00 and $10,000.00. Where your divorce falls within that range will depend on several factors: the complexity of the case, the nature of the issues, whether there are kids involved and whether the other side is going to fight over things. I always offer clients a consultation to discuss the issues presented by their case and, at the conclusion of the meeting, provide them a price for my services. My billable is presently $200.00 per hour.

My office requires a True Retainer to be paid up front before we can go to work on a contested divorce case. It is important to understand that a True Retainer is a one-time fee paid to secure the attorney’s services, readiness and availability. It is considered earned upon receipt in consideration of the fact that the attorney may have to forego other opportunities because he or she has committed their time to the instant case, and other factors.

It is important to understand that a True Retainer is different from an advance on fees to be earned later. Some lawyers will collect a deposit and hold the funds in their trust account until they have put in the hours to “earn” the money. They will draw against those funds until they have used them up. Any remaining unearned balance is fully refundable to the client. While this is a perfectly acceptable way of doing business, the deposit given is not an actual Retainer, as that term is used in the industry. The difference between the two forms of payment is that a True Retainer is earned at the moment the funds are conveyed, while an advance deposit on fees to be earned later is earned after the attorney begins actually working on the case.

In my office, after the client has paid the True Retainer, I typically offer them a courtesy discount whereby I agree to provide a set number of hours free of charge. I provide these free hours because I believe that if the client likes what I accomplish for him or her, he or she will recommend me to others in need of an attorney. This system effectively operates to provide the client with a financial break between the payment of the upfront True Retainer and the subsequent payment of my hourly fees.

A typical case would look like this: Client hires attorney by paying a $3,000.00 True Retainer. Then, having retained the attorney’s services, client receives 20 hours of legal work performed at no charge to the client. The client is not billed hourly until the attorney has put in 20 hours on the case. The bottom line is if the attorney can complete work on the case utilizing 20 hours or less, the client will owe nothing further. Any time spent above the 20-hour threshold is billable at a rate of $200 per hour. At that point, if we reach the threshold, we can always work out reasonable payment terms to enable continued work on the case.

Please contact Kevin “Buck” Sralla at 210-600-9565 for a consultation regarding your divorce today.

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