When considering a divorce, one of the many things you will have to think about is the cost. Unfortunately, hiring a divorce lawyer is not cheap, and most will require you to pay some handsome sum of money, including a retainer fee up front. So what is the average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer?
First, we will look at the average retainer fee is and everything else you may need to know about hiring a divorce lawyer.
Keep reading to learn all about the average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer!
What is a Retainer Fee?
A retainer fee is simply a sum of money that you pay upfront to secure a lawyer’s services. The lawyer will then bill you for their services on an hourly basis, up to the amount of the retainer fee.
This is different from a flat fee, where you would pay one price for the lawyer’s services regardless of how much time they spend on your case. Retainer fees are more common in divorce cases, as they vary significantly in time and complexity.
How Much is the Average Retainer Fee?
The average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer can vary greatly depending on your region, the lawyer’s experience, and the specifics of your situation. However, most lawyers will charge somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 for their services.
Factors influencing the retainer fee can include the following:
– The lawyer’s experience and qualifications
– The complexity of the divorce case
– Whether the case goes to trial
– The amount of work the lawyer has to do on your behalf
– The type of divorce you are seeking
Let’s take a brief look at each of these factors in turn.
The Lawyer’s Experience and Qualifications
A more experienced lawyer will generally charge more for their services than a less experienced one. This is because they better understand the law and are more likely to get the case resolved quickly and efficiently.
The Complexity of the Divorce Case
A more complex divorce case will generally require more work from the lawyer, which means they will charge more for their services. This could include many assets to split, disagreements over child custody, or complicated financial arrangements.
Whether the Case Goes to Trial
If the case goes to trial, the lawyer will likely need to spend more time on it and charge more for their services.
The Amount of Work the Lawyer has to do on Your Behalf
Not all lawyers do the same amount of work on a divorce case. Some may review the paperwork and give you some advice, while others will be more hands-on and represent you in court. The amount of work required will affect the lawyer’s fee.
The Type of Divorce You are Seeking
There are two main types of divorce: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce is more complex and requires more work from the lawyer, while an uncontested divorce is more straightforward and can be resolved quickly.
As you can see, several factors can influence the retainer fee charged by a divorce lawyer. It is important to remember that this is just an average, and your lawyer may quote you a different price.
What Does the Retainer Fee Include?
The retainer fee covers various services that your lawyer will provide for you. This can include reviewing your case, meeting with you to discuss your options, preparing and filing court documents, representing you in court, and negotiating with the other side.
Keep in mind that the retainer fee does not include experts fees (like for a child custody evaluation), mediation costs, or court costs. These will all need to be paid separately.
Where Does The Retainer Fee Go After You Pay It To The Lawyer?
When you pay a retainer fee to a lawyer, the money is placed in what is known as a trust account. This account is kept separate from the lawyer’s funds and can only be used for your case.
As work on your case progresses, the lawyer will bill you for their services. They will take the money they have earned from the trust account and deposit it into their business account.
For your case to progress, the lawyer needs to have enough money in the trust account to cover their anticipated time working on your case. If they do not, they will need to ask you for more money or stop working on your case until you can pay more.
When Should You Pay The Retainer Fee?
Most lawyers will require that the retainer fee be paid before they will begin working on your case. This helps ensure that the lawyer can devote their time to your case and that you are serious about moving forward with the divorce.
Some lawyers may be willing to work on a payment plan, so ask if this is an option. You should also make sure that you understand what the payment plan entails before agreeing to it.
Where Does The Remaining Retainer Fee Go?
Once all of the work on your case is completed, any money left in the trust account will be returned to you. This can happen either in one lump sum or in several smaller payments, depending on what was agreed upon when you first hired the lawyer.
It’s important to understand that the retainer fee does not guarantee how much you will ultimately spend on your divorce. Instead, think of it as a deposit or advance payment.
If your case is more complex than anticipated or takes longer than expected, you may need to pay more money to the lawyer. You should discuss this possibility with your lawyer beforehand to avoid surprises down the road.
What Happens if I Don’t Have a Retainer Fee?
If you can’t afford to pay a retainer fee, you may be able to apply for what is known as legal aid. Legal aid is a government-funded program that provides free or low-cost legal services to people who cannot afford them.
Each state has its criteria for who is eligible for legal aid, so you will need to check with your local legal aid office to see if you qualify.
If you don’t qualify for legal aid or can’t find a lawyer willing to work on a payment plan, you may have to represent yourself in court. This can be a daunting task, so be sure to do your research and get as much help as possible.
The Bottom Line
The average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer is $1000 to $5000, but this can vary depending on several factors. Ask your lawyer what is included in their fee and what you can expect to pay for additional costs like experts fees, mediation, and court costs.
The retainer fee is just a down payment, and you may need to pay more money as your case progresses. Talk to your lawyer about what payment options are available to you to avoid surprises down the road.