Understanding Legal Fees for a Divorce

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Understanding Legal Fees for a Divorce
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 11/20/2023


Embarking on the divorce journey involves not just emotional challenges but financial considerations that demand careful attention. As you navigate this complex terrain, understanding the legal fees becomes paramount for effective planning and a smooth transition. Cost is one of the major hurdles in every divorce. Finances may already be stretched thin, so keeping attorney fees low is often a major priority. Understanding how legal fees work and how to reduce costs should be a part of every attorney consultation.

What is a Retainer Deposit?

All attorneys handling divorce matters require a signed representation agreement. Most attorneys will require a retainer deposit at the outset of this representation. This money will be placed into a trust account and will be used to cover costs and fees throughout the litigation. Often monthly, the law firm invoices their client and withdraws funds from the trust account to cover expenses. When the retainer runs low or is emptied, the attorney will require an additional deposit into the retainer.

It’s crucial to discuss how the retainer works with your attorney. A few questions to ask include:

  1. What hourly rate will be used to charge from the trust retainer?

  2. What time increment do you use in charging your hourly rate?

  3. What is the initial deposit required for the trust retainer deposit?

  4. How will I know when my trust is running low or empty?

  5. What types of costs are taken from the trust account?

What Costs Are Incurred in a Divorce?

Inevitably, in any legal proceeding, costs will accrue. Some of these costs are directly from the court. Some of these costs are discretionary to assist in your case development. While some of these costs can be avoided, others are mandatory and must be paid in every case. Different types of costs might include filing fees, service of process fees, expert fees (such as real estate appraisers and forensic accountants), deposition fees, and mediation fees.

In your initial case consultation, you should ask your attorney for information:

  1. What types of costs do you expect in my case?

  2. Do these costs get paid from my trust retainer or will I need to pay them directly?

  3. When do we expect these costs to be paid? Can we avoid them?

How Can Costs and Fees be Kept Low?

Keeping a balanced budget is difficult during a divorce. Keeping fees and costs low can be tough because you are not solely in control of your case. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse can create new expenses by failing to cooperate with you and your attorney. If they file a Motion in the Court, you are effectively required to respond meaning more time and money spent from your attorney.

There are, however, some ways to reduce costs and fees as part of your dissolution including:

  1. Effective Communication – Failing to respond promptly often leads to unnecessary, additional messages from your attorney. On the opposite side of the spectrum, overloading your attorney with messages also leads to substantial time costs.

  2. Organizing Financial Documents and Evidence – Financial data and other evidence is incredibly important to your case. Reviewing that data and organizing it before sending it to your counsel will save your attorney substantial time. If you provide a shambles of documents, it will take your legal team hours to review everything and put it in a reasonable shape.

  3. Seek Cooperate – While emotions may run high, looking to fight for every fork and knife will lead to high costs. Speak with your attorney at the outset of your case to define your goals and always work towards those goals in your case while limiting fights over less important aspects.

Working With Your Attorney

Having open and honest communication with your legal team is greatly important. A discussion at the outset about legal fees, costs, and ways to manage your budget should be a part of every initial consultation. Understanding how retainer deposits and hourly fees work will help you appreciate how your attorney bills. Effectively working with your attorney can help avoid unnecessary fees and costs, and focusing on your most important goals will keep your case progressing in the right direction. Call the legal team at Magnuson Lowell PS for a free case evaluation.

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