How much does a divorce or other family law case cost?
The unfortunate answer is that there is no set answer. A divorce on your own can cost as little as the filing fee – $220.00. A highly contested divorce, with overly expensive lawyers on both sides, can cost well over $100,000 or more for each spouse.
How do attorneys typically charge?
Most divorce attorneys on the North Shore charge between $200 and $500 per hour. Generally Boston based attorneys typically charge more, with rates going into the $750 per hour range.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is an up-front payment to a lawyer that is set aside in a special account until the lawyer charges fees against it. A typical retainer in a divorce case is $3,500 to $15,000.
Do you always require a retainer?
No. When opening my practice, I decided to change the way I bill in a way that works better for me and for my clients. In many instances, instead of focusing on billable hours and retainers, I decided to break a case into several steps, and charge affordable flat rates for each step. This means I do not ask for a retainer in the vast majority of divorce or family law cases. Instead, we agree on the work I will perform and the work you will perform. I ask for payment on only those sections I will need to perform in the next few weeks. This gives you some time to prepare for the next steps, and evaluate my work on the first steps. If you decide you don’t need (or can’t afford) an attorney for the next step, just let me know.
On the other hand there are instances where a more traditional approach makes sense for both you and me. For example, if we don’t know exactly what issues are going to be contested in a divorce proceeding a flat fee can be difficult if not impossible for both parties.
Do you bill for phone calls or e-mails?
On flat fees cases, because you have already paid for a certain service or step, you will never be billed for phone calls or e-mails from me. I do, however, reserve the right to say that we haven’t gotten to a specific step (and request payment for that step) before helping with matters we haven’t covered yet.
What is your hourly rate?
If a client prefers to be billed on an hourly rate, I charge $250.00 per hour.
How much are the flat fees?
Each aspect of a divorce (or other family law case) is priced individually, though typically, each step of the process will cost between $500 and $1,500 depending on the complexity, amount of time involved, and reasonableness of the opposing party/counsel.
How is this better for the lawyer?
The most important way this system is better for me as a lawyer is that I am never stuck with an uncollectable bill from an angry and broke client. All too often, legal bills in a divorce rack up, and get to a level that a client has no reasonable ability to pay in a timely basis. That leaves a client that is frustrated, and an attorney that is angry for not being paid.
On a more practical note, I get to dedicate more time to working on my cases, and less time preparing bills and making collection phone calls.
What if I cannot afford the next step in the divorce case?
Each step in the divorce case is a new contract between my client and me. If a client is unable to afford to hire an attorney for the next step, I can provide assistance in preparation for the step, guidance in drafting, etc., for smaller fee than completing the next step myself. In other situations, I might advise to save the resources for a more important step in the case, such as a Pre-trial Conference or for trial preparation.
Do you charge for the first consultation?
An initial consultation is always free. I see it as a chance for you to interview me, and me to interview you to see if we will have a good working relationship. Just note, an initial consultation is not an opportunity for you to say “can you just look this over and make sure it’s correct.”
Will you take my case pro-bono
I work with several pro bono clients per year. However, I complete all pro bono work through an established legal service agency, such as a bar association or Neighborhood Legal Services.