Hiring a Family Law Attorney: Fee Agreements

You've decided you need professional help with an issue related to family law, but you're wondering how much hiring a lawyer will cost. While there isn't a straightforward answer, there are a few factors that affect the answer to that question. First, the cost will depend on the type of issue you have and the complexity involved in resolving that issue. Second, it'll depend on the fee agreement between you and your lawyer.

When you're considering hiring a family law attorney, your fee agreement should set out the types of services the lawyer will perform for you, the type of legal fees that will be charged, and the amount you'll be expected to pay. The agreement should also identify how other legal costs will be handled, and should explain the lawyer's billing practices.

Topics Covered in Attorney Fee Agreements

There are a variety of questions to ask a potential lawyer in an initial meeting, including the lawyer's fees and the fee arrangement. Your discussions with your lawyer about fees and costs might cover the following topics:

  • Type of Fee Arrangement: A family law attorney may charge a flat rate of bill on an hourly basis. You should also learn if the lawyer requires the payment of a retainer fee.
  • Type of Permissible Costs: In addition to the fees for the lawyer's work, there are a variety of legal costs involved in practicing the law. These include costs related to making copies or conducting electronic research. It's important to know which costs you'll be responsible for.
  • Estimated Fees and Costs: Even though the lawyer may not be able to determine the exact amount of time and effort required to handle your case, they should be in a position to give you an estimate of the fees and costs related to your case based upon past experience.
  • Frequency and Detail: You should find out how often you will be billed and whether interest or other charges will be added to unpaid amounts. The lawyer's bills should include details of the services provided along with an itemization of costs.
  • Basic Charges: If the lawyer charges by the hour, you should find out the minimum billing segment. For example, a lawyer may bill you for a tenth of an hour (six minutes) for a simple three minute telephone call. You should also find out whether you will be billed for work by others -- associates, legal assistants, or paralegals.
  • Control: It's important to establish how much control you'll have over the fees and expenses. For example, you may want to require the lawyer to notify you if the fees and expenses reach a certain amount.

Finalizing the Fee Agreement

You might want to take notes during your discussions so you can know what terms you and the lawyer agreed upon. Based on your discussions, you should have the fee arrangement put in writing. The lawyer may have a pre-printed fee agreement, sometimes called a representation agreement, which you should be sure to read carefully before signing. If the agreement doesn't include the terms you've discussed with the lawyer, ask the lawyer to change the language. It's important for the agreement to clearly state what you and the lawyer agreed to do, especially if there's a disagreement later.

Thinking About Hiring a Family Law Attorney but Wondering About the Cost? Talk to One About Fee Agreements

While it's hard to predicate to total cost of hiring a family law attorney, a fee agreement can help you to better understand and plan for the cost. Dealing with legal issues can be stressful and overwhelming, but consulting with a legal professional can ease the process. If you have an issue related to family law, you should consider discussing it with a skilled family law attorney near you today.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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