We believe in discussing fees early and openly with our clients. It is our belief that a client who knows important billing information will be better informed and more satisfied with the services we provide. In order to retain our firm, you will be required to sign an Agreement for Employment of Legal Counsel and pay an initial deposit towards the representation. The amount of the initial deposit will depend on the legal issues we are handling for you. However, initial deposits typically range from $3,000 to $10,000.
At Ward Family Law Group, we understand that no two families are alike, and that no domestic case is exactly like another. Simple cases may turn out to be very complex. No good lawyer in most cases will tell you that your case is “easy” or “no problem.” Many cases that appear to be routine at first glance can mushroom quickly into complicated problems. A case that one spouse may think can be resolved quickly in a Separation Agreement may end up being a domestic violence case or a high-conflict custody dispute. On the other hand, one spouse may think that his case is one that will never settle but then the parties are able to resolve their dispute amicably outside of court. Because of the unpredictability of family law disputes, we believe the fairest way to bill for legal services is for the client to pay only for the time the lawyer and her staff bills.
While there are some instances when we may be able to handle your issue for a set fee (i.e., absolute divorce, uncontested Prenuptial Agreement or uncontested, non-negotiated Separation Agreement), our firm charges by the hour for legal services. Please note that we try to allocate work among our lawyers and staff in a way designed to conserve and limit your attorney’s fees. Moreover, if there is work which the client can prepare on his own (like preparing a monthly budget or gathering financial documents per Family Court disclosures rules), then we will ask the client to gather this information in order to contain costs. Your attorney may give you an estimate of costs for the case when she talks with you about the case “game plan.” However, any figures we might quote you for the total cost of our legal services are merely estimates. Your adversary, the opposing party or others may engage in activities beyond our control that require time that was originally not contemplated. We will discuss with you the specific fee arrangement and initial deposit for your case once we have had an opportunity to interview you and determine the facts and objectives in your case.
We maintain detailed records of the time we spend on each client’s case. Our firm sends out monthly invoices detailing the legal services rendered to the client, so you should be able to look at your invoice and know immediately what work was done on your case. Records are kept by each attorney and our staff bills on the basis of tenths of hours. Thus, a one-half hour consultation would be listed as: “conference with client – .5”. You will be billed for all time spent on your case including, but not limited to, conferences, telephone calls, emails, correspondence, witness interviews, pretrial discovery, depositions, mediation, trial preparation, document drafting, pleadings, negotiations, legal research, court time, as well as travel to and from locations away from our office.
In most cases, in addition to legal fees, other expenses are incurred as a result of the representation, including administrative expenses for things such as copies, faxes, trial notebooks, exhibits, parking fees, as well as other outside costs such as service fees to the sheriff, filing fees at the courthouse, mediator fees, expert witness fees, etc. The firm charges an administrative fee equal to three percent (3%) of the client’s total legal fees incurred during each invoice period. This administrative fee represents costs incurred for such expenses as photocopying, facsimile transmissions, miscellaneous supplies such as trial notebooks, client file set up fee, litigation administrative materials such as exhibit markers, legal research, standard postage for mailings, and parking fees. Court filing fees, process server fees, private investigative fees and expenses, court reporter fees for recording and transcribing depositions, expert witness fees, and any other expenses incurred during the representation by the firm by an outside vendor are billed at cost directly to the client.
Upon the rendering of your billing invoice each month, you may be required to replenish the initial deposit and pay the balance of any statement remaining unpaid after the funds already on deposit are depleted. If your case is resolved and you have funds remaining in trust, then we will refund to you any balance remaining in our trust account, which is not needed to satisfy the balance of your account with the firm.
Please feel free to ask any questions you wish about fees or additional costs that may be incurred in your case. Our goal, above all, is to counsel and maintain clients who are well informed and who are satisfied with the services we provide to them.
Frequently asked questions
It’s impossible to predict how much your divorce will cost, although your lawyer may be able to give you a range. The cost of the case depends on many factors, some beyond your lawyer’s control. These factors include the kind of lawyer your spouse hires, how you and your spouse behave in the litigation and the court to which your case is assigned. Generally, the more things you and your spouse can agree on, the lower your fees will be.
It all depends on the issues in dispute and the willingness of the parties to resolve the issues in a fair and reasonable manner. Some parties will argue over every issue and will spend thousands and thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses. We have found that parties can keep their attorney’s down if both parties have reasonable expectations and are willing to make some concessions in order to work toward settlement. We emphasize that it takes willingness from both parties to resolve the case. If your spouse is unwilling to negotiate, has some psychological issue that prevents him/her from dealing with you rationally and reasonably, or the parties simply cannot agree on an issue and both have good, relevant legal arguments, then you may forced to spend more in attorney’s fees and other case-related costs.
Yes. Be actively involved in your case. Take the time and trouble to learn what’s going on. Follow your lawyer’s instructions. Volunteer to help with the work whenever possible. Have reasonable expectations of your lawyer. Watch for ways to settle issues. Don’t insist on fighting to the last drop of blood over small issues or for a supposed principle. When talking to your lawyer, avoid long, detailed stories unless your lawyer assures you it’s necessary information.
A court may order a spouse to contribute to the fees of the other spouse. If you get such an order, your lawyer will credit what is actually paid to your account. But seeking such an order does not change your obligation to pay the balance that you owe to your own lawyer. Also, many lawyers do not accept cases on the possibility that the other spouse will be required to pay the fee by court order.