How Much Does it Cost to Retain a Family Law Attorney?

By November 7, 2019Family Law Blog

In California, “family law” covers domestic issues. Specific laws vary but generally aim to protect an individual’s rights within the context of family. For example, divorce law addresses how to end a marriage and divide the property.

A family law attorney’s practice is not limited to divorce. Child and spousal support issues, custody matters, and adoption are also handled. Domestic violence often falls under the umbrella of family law as well.

So, how much does it cost to retain a family law attorney? The answer to that question isn’t just a straight dollar number and there are a lot of factors that play into the cost. However, there are some tips to give some insight into hiring a family law attorney.

California Attorney Fees for Legal Services

There are numerous aspects to the question of attorney fees in family law matters and it helps to understand what they are before you hire someone to represent you. A lawyer’s hourly rates are not set by California law, although there are some limitations imposed by the State Bar, particularly with regard to “unconscionable” fees.

Family law attorneys set their own prices for their services based on market forces. Lawyers with extensive experience, such as 15 years or more, or who have a specialized expertise such as being a Certified Family Law Specialist, typically charge a higher hourly fee. When you hire a Certified Family Law Specialist there is added value to the quality of what is provided as they invest considerable time in energy in staying current with family law and related fields, the State Bar of California certifies this. 

Cost of Retainers and Staff

In most cases, qualified family law attorneys require a retainer from their clients prior to starting work on the case. A retainer is an upfront deposit for services that you are required to provide upon the signing of the fee agreement. Though it may seem this is paying for work before it’s performed, retainers serve a particularly important purpose. For a lawyer to devote her or his energy and attention to your family law matter they need to be reassured they’ll be paid for their services. Retainers are usually based on how complex the attorney you meet with thinks your case will be, they range from $3,500 to $10,000. Retainers remain in a trust account until the work is completed and the money is earned. 

There are some tasks in family law matters that can be handled less expensively by paralegals and legal assistants. Provided the attorney continues to actively supervise your case and the work performed, this can be extremely cost-effective for you. At Minella Law Group, we strive to make things as cost-effective as possible understanding divorce is expensive and you still have to support yourself and your family. 

Related: I Can’t Afford A Legal Retainer, Can I Still Get Divorced?

What Should You Expect To Pay?

How much your matter will cost is impossible to predict. It’s important to remember in law, time is money. That said, in California:

  • Experienced attorneys charge $300-500 per hour.
  • A simple, amicable divorce costs around $6,000.
  • The average cost for a divorce is $17,500.

Retaining a divorce attorney is the first step in any family law case, talk to a family law attorney to learn more.

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