Depending on where you reside in Metropolitan Atlanta, you will sometimes see billboards on the side of the highway or you may walk through the mall and see a full size advertisement on the store directory for attorneys charging $500 for uncontested divorces. On occasion, we will receive a call from someone who is looking to hire an attorney to see if we charge a flat fee. There are certain areas of the law where an attorney will either charge one fee upfront and it will cover all of the work performed on a file or on a contingency basis where the attorney will get paid or reimbursed for all filing fees and work performed on the case after the case is finished, such as a personal injury case. Divorce cases, however, do fall into either of these categories. Unlike with other types of matters, there is no way to estimate the total amount of time that is spent on a divorce case since the amount of time varies from case to case. Like a human fingerprint, each divorce case is unique and no two are alike.
In divorce cases, law firms generally bill their client on an hourly basis. Before the attorney begins working on a client’s case, however, the attorney requires their client to sign a fee agreement and pay a retainer fee. The fee agreement is a written contract between the client and his or her attorney and explains in detail what the client can expect from their attorney. The fee agreement will list services the attorney will provide, such as the preparation of any pleadings, the amount of the retainer, the hourly rate at which he or she is billed, and any additional costs, such as filing fees, courier fees, and travel costs. It is very important that you carefully read the fee agreement before you sign it. Sometimes when the client receives their first invoice, they do not realize that their attorney charges for all telephone calls and e-mail correspondence. Any time that you speak with your attorney, they are going to charge you for the time that they spent speaking with you or responding to your e-mail.
When you sign the fee agreement, you will also pay a retainer fee to the attorney. The retainer fee is a lump sum payment that you pay up front to your attorney to secure their services. It is similar to a security deposit that you make to an apartment complex or earnest money that you pay to the seller when purchasing a house. When your attorney or one of their staff performs any work on your file, they will bill off of this retainer. The retainer payment is NOT a flat fee and you will receive a bill for any additional time and money that the law firm spends on your file. In the fee agreement, law firms also charge a replenishing retainer. Once the amount of money left in your retainer gets below a certain amount, the law firm requires that you replenish your retainer to cover any work performed on your case. There is not set amount for the retainer in a divorce case. Each case is different. If you would like our law firm to quote you a retainer fee,you will need to speak with either one of our attorneys. They can quote you a reasonable retainer based on the facts of your case. In addition, the unused portion of your retainer is fully refundable. If there are any monies remaining in your retainer at the end of your case.