What Is the Average Retainer Fee for a Divorce Lawyer?

The average cost of divorce is pretty much useless information because costs depend on each individual case. Costs might also go up or down whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, respectively. How much property needs to be divided? Are there children and custody issues? Each answer bears on the ultimate cost of divorce.

What Is a Retainer?

Retainers are deposits on professional services, and they’re handy for attorneys who don’t always know what a case may entail. The retainer is used to cover lawyer’s fees and other expenses tied to the case –such as paying investigators, real estate appraisers, and experts on various topics.

The fees are charged regardless of the outcome. Once you hire a legal team, they will make a quick estimate of billable hours and expenses to set a realistic retainer. The attorney also prepares a retainer agreement that specifies how the client should proceed if the retainer becomes depleted.

If an attorney charges $200 per hour and estimates the divorce case to take 45 hours, the retainer would be $9,000.

Billable Hours for Attorneys

Billable hours include everything that a lawyer does for a client. That includes sending faxes and emails, making phone calls, preparing records, and litigating the case in court. Exclusive, case-relevant research is also billable, but general research and work on behalf of the firm isn’t billable.

Retainer Amounts Depend on the Cost of the Divorce

Lawyers expecting a drawn-out divorce case with a wealthy client often charge a rounded retainer fee like $100,000 or $500,000 and deduct their expenses and billable hours until it’s necessary to replenish the fund. Unused retainer funds are generally refunded to the client.

Retainer fees offer financial protection to lawyers who might end up with an uncollectable bill because of unforeseen circumstances. Cases often generate big financial awards to one spouse, and the courts freeze joint funds. Other circumstances can also prevent a client from meeting their financial obligations.

Typical Retainers for Simple Divorce Cases

Some attorneys offer package deals for simple, uncontested divorces. Typical retainers for simple divorces might run from $10,000 to $15,000. A typical divorce costs on average $15,000, which breaks down as follows:

  • $11,300 in attorney fees
  • $1,600 in court costs
  • $2,100 in miscellaneous fees paid to investigators, experts, etc.

Why It Is Important to Hire the Best Divorce Attorney Available

It is important not to skimp when hiring an attorney. Experienced, capable attorneys help ease the stress of the trial and provide emotional support. The more experienced the attorney, the higher the fees, but it is usually worth the investment. A well-qualified attorney knows the process and provides support when the case may become overwhelming.

You should prepare a list of questions to ask a divorce attorney to know what to expect. Five recommended questions to ask include:

  • What do you need to know about me and my marriage?
  • How can I cut costs without sacrificing in other areas?
  • What are my next steps after hiring you?
  • What is getting a divorce really like?
  • Tell me about yourself and your legal approach.

You don’t have to be an expert to get a good idea about an attorney’s capabilities. The recommended questions allow you to assess whether a lawyer seems worth the cost.

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