Attorney’s Fees: Hourly Rate, Flat Fee, or Contingency Fee in Family Law Cases

Carole Albright

Carole Albright

There are primarily three ways attorneys charge clients for legal services: hourly rates, contingency fees and flat fees. So what should you expect regarding attorneys fees if you have a family law issue? With most family law issues, attorneys bill by the hour.  This is because it is difficult to estimate how long each case will take.  Hourly rates vary depending upon the experience of the attorney, the average hourly rate in the area in which you live and the complexity of the case and our attorneys endeavor to ensure that clients are charged a fair fee.   Generally, most attorneys bill for any work they do on your case including reviewing documents, talking to you, talking to witnesses, talking with the opposing party or attorney, responding to emails, preparing court documents, conducting legal research, meeting with you and representing you in mediation or in a trial or hearing at court.

The primary type of case in which family law attorneys charge flat fees are in absolute divorces.  This fee will generally cover the attorney fee in addition to any filing fees. Be sure to ask the attorney what a flat fee covers before agreeing to a fee.

Finally, contingency fees are generally only allowed with regard to alienation of affections, criminal conversation or equitable distribution cases. In these cases, judges or juries can award damages or distribute assets and the attorney will collect his fee by taking a percentage of the damages or assets that are distributed to his client.  Be sure to understand what percentage of the damages/assets the attorney is going to take, the range of damages the attorney expects to be awarded at trial , and any additional costs such as filing fees and copy charges the attorney will charge in addition to collecting his or her attorney fees.

The bottom line is to ask the attorney for a clear explanation of what you will be charged and what costs to expect in addition to the attorney fees.

Family Law