People usually want to know at the outset what their divorce is going to cost. It's difficult to give a clear answer early in the process. Hopefully you will find the information below useful.
Q: What is your hourly rate?
It's $300 per hour.
Q: What is your retainer?
It depends on the case.
If the issues are straightforward and the client is hoping that the case can be negotiated out of court, the retainer will likely be $3,000 to $5,000.
If the case has an array of financial and custody issues to be worked through, the retainer will likely be $5,000 to $10,000.
If the case is in litigation with numerous issues being contested, the retainer will likely be higher.
Q: How does the retainer work?
The retainer is a "fund" against which the hourly rates are applied. When you retain us, you provide a check for the retainer. Let's say the retainer is $6,000 and in the first month, I spend eight hours of my time working on your case. At the end of the month, I would send you an invoice for $2,400 (8 hours at $300 per hour). You would have $3,600 remaining on retainer.
Q: How much will my entire case cost?
The total cost will ultimately depend upon several factors, such as:
- The number and complexity of the issues. All else being equal, a case involving children will be more expensive than one that does not. A case requiring a formal valuation of marital assets will be more expensive than one that does not.
- Your spouse. Hopefully, you have an idea as to how your spouse will handle the divorce process. And hopefully, that idea is that he or she will handle it calmly and effectively.
- Your spouse's attorney. A good attorney and the odds go up that the case can be settled fairly, at an early date. A bad attorney and you are likely to wind up in court. Unfortunately, I have no control over this variable.
- You. For example, your timeliness and completeness in providing me with the information that I need; your willingness to make necessary compromises; and your willingness and/or ability to handle certain issues on your own. Some clients require more attention than others, which is fine, but which does result in a higher final cost.
- There may be other factors that affect your total costs, but those are the main ones.
Q: Will I have to pay my spouse's attorneys fees?
If you earn significantly more than your spouse, you will probably have to pay some of those fees. You'd only have to pay all of the fees if your spouse has no income at all. Even in that case, if your spouse has some separate assets to fall back on, he/she may be required to expend some of those for counsel fees, depending on the circumstances.
Q: Will I have to pay my spouse's fees as soon as we go to court?
In most cases, the higher earner will have to pay some "interim" fees as soon as the case goes to court. The procedure is that the lower-earning spouse's attorney files a motion for interim fees under Domestic Relations Law 237. The higher earner will be directed to pay fees directly to the lower earner's attorney. The amount depends on the circumstances. It may be as little as $5,000 or it may be much higher ($20,000, or more) if the parties are wealthy and the court foresees ongoing litigation.
Q: What if we settle the case before exhausting the retainer?
In the event that we are able to resolve your case without using all of the funds on retainer (or if you reconcile, or if you discharge me prior to using up the retainer), the unused portion will be returned to you at the end of the next billing cycle.
Q: What if I go over the retainer?
When the amount on retainer is depleted (or almost depleted), you will be asked to provide additional funds. My responsibility as the lawyer is to bill you fairly and honestly, in accordance with the retainer agreement and reflecting the time actually spent working on your behalf. Your responsibility is to provide additional funds if it turns out that the retainer was not sufficient to resolve the case.
Q: What if my spouse and I have already worked everything out?
If that's the case, I may be able to handle your case for a flat fee. If there are no issues whatsoever and you just need to obtain a divorce, the fee is $800 plus filing fees. If there are financial or child-related issues, the fee varies from $1,200 to $3,000. This assumes you and your spouse have a verbal agreement in place. Contact us for details.
Q: Anything else I should know?
We offer a discount to active-duty military and veterans of foreign conflicts: the hourly rate is $200. For info about military divorce, see here: Military Divorce