Facing family law issues can be difficult. An individual often finds themselves asking, “How much does a family lawyer cost”? Or, “Where can I find a low cost family law attorney?”
A family law attorney can also help families accomplish things they desire, such as prenuptial agreements and adoptions. Even for less stressful family issues, individuals wonder about the average cost of a family lawyer.
The good news is that, in many cases, the family lawyer cost is lower than expected. Attorney’s fees are often quite reasonable.
In some cases, an attorney may be willing to work with a client on a payment plan if they are aware the client does not have a significant amount of income. Some attorneys charge an hourly rate for family law cases.
The average family lawyer cost is between $100 and $400 per hour. It is important to note, however, that some attorneys charge as much as $1,000 per hour.
Because of the variations in fees, it is imperative that an individual discusses the hourly rate their attorney will be charging prior to beginning the case. For example, in California, for a smaller and less experienced law firm, the median hourly rate is $350.
In Tennessee, however, an individual may expect to pay less for an attorney’s services. The average in this area is between $200 and $300 per hour.
The average cost of a family court lawyer varies greatly and depends on many factors related to the case, the lawyer’s skills, and the location. Generally, there are three different types of fee schedules that an attorney may use. These include:
- Hourly rates;
- Contingency fees; and
- Flat fee.
In certain cases, when an attorney charges an hourly rate, they also charge a retainer fee. A retainer fee is an amount which is paid in advance and is based on the hourly rate of the attorney.
A retainer fee is like a downpayment for the case. Fees and costs related to the case are deducted from that amount.
Once the retainer fee is used, the attorney’s hourly rate will apply. In the majority of cases, a retainer fee is non-refundable.
If the attorney charges a contingency fee, they will receive their payment as a percentage of the damages award at the end of the case. In this type of billing arrangement, the attorney does not charge their hourly rate while working on the case.
The percentage that an attorney will receive from a contingency fee arrangement varies depending on the details of the arrangement and the state. Contingency fee rates may range from 5% to 50% of the damages award.
However, the attorney will not collect any payment if they do not win the case. In other words, the attorney’s payment is contingent on winning the case.
It is important to be aware that, although the attorney does not receive any payment until the case is won, their client may still be responsible for the payment of case related up-front fees, which may include:
- Court filing fees;
- Discovery costs;
- Expert witness fees; and
- Other overhead fees required to complete the case.
Another type of fee arrangement that attorneys may use is the flat fee. If the case they are handling is likely to be more simple, they may charge one amount to complete work on the case. The types of cases in which a flat fee is often used includes:
- Simple wills;
- Uncontested divorces;
- Power of attorney; and
- Certain minor criminal cases.
What Factors are Used in Calculating Family Lawyer Fees?
As previously noted, there are several factors that are used to answer the question, how much does a family court lawyer cost?
An experienced attorney in a larger city will charge a higher fee than an attorney in a small town who just opened their practice. In addition, there are other factors which affect the cost, including:
- The type of representation;
- The services to be performed; and
- The fee arrangement for the case.
The type of representation is a large factor in the cost. The more complicated the case, the more likely the cost will rise. This also applies if a simple and routine case has been complicated by aggravating factors or circumstances.
The cost will rise as the number of services the attorney is providing increases. In certain cases, however, an attorney may bundle some services in order to keep costs down for their client.
The fee arrangement is another major factor in the cost of a family attorney. The overall cost varies depending on whether the attorney:
- Charges on a contingency fee plus an hourly basis;
- Charges a flat fee; or
- Is on retainer and provides advice on an as-needed basis.
If a client has a very strong case and will likely prevail with a lucrative damages award, they may have a better chance at negotiating their fees. Some factors which are considered when determining attorney’s fees include:
- The amount of time and the effort the attorney will have to put into the case to succeed;
- The projected difficulty of the case;
- What skills are required to perform the legal services;
- The amount of attorney’s fees that are typically charged in the area for similar legal services by attorneys with similar skills, reputation and experience;
- The amount of the requested damages in the lawsuit, which is a factor if the client agreed to a contingency fee; and
- If the rate is contingent or fixed.
It is important to remember that even though an individual is paying for their attorney’s work, there are also other expenses they may be required to pay for that are associated with the case. These may include:
- Filing fees;
- Court reporter charges, if necessary;
- Expert witness charges, if necessary; and
- Travel and transportation charges, within reason.
What Services Do Family Law Attorneys Provide?
Family law attorneys provide many different services. A family law attorney is trained to practice in the area of law that pertains to domestic relationships.
It is important to note that, in some cases, family law attorneys will be referred to by other titles, which often include their specialty in family law, such as:
- Prenup lawyer;
- Custody lawyer;
- Child custody attorney;
- Paternity lawyer;
- Guardianship attorney;
- Family mediation attorney; and
- Other combinations of specialties.
Family law attorneys often handle cases involving:
- Prenuptial agreements;
- Spousal support;
- Child custody;
- Child support;
- Estate and inheritance issues; and
- Other types of cases.
As demonstrated, there are many subcategories of family law. Because of this, many family law attorneys will specialize in a few of the areas as opposed to all of them.
For example, some family law attorneys specialize in divorce law. This type of attorney will also likely handle issues such as:
- Martial agreements;
- Separation agreements;
- Prenuptial agreements; and
- Post nuptial agreements.
In contrast, a family law attorney who primarily handles child custody cases will likely be familiar with matters involving visitation rights and child support payments. Because of the broad nature of family law, many family law attorneys are experienced in drafting contracts that pertain to family law matters, representing clients in family court, and preparing legal documents that pertain to family law issues.
Family lawyers may also handle issues including:
- Mediation in divorce cases;
- Mediation in child custody cases; and
- Domestic violence issues as they pertain to family law cases.
Are There Any Advantages to Hiring a Family Lawyer?
Yes, there are many advantages to hiring a family lawyer to help with family law issues. A family lawyer can perform many services in this broad area of law, as noted above.
There may be issues or rules in the area of family law that a regular individual would not be aware of. Having an attorney is the best way to ensure the rights of the parties are protected, especially if children are involved.
Do I Need to Hire a Family Lawyer?
Yes, it is essential to hire a family lawyer to assist you with any family law issues you may have. A family lawyer is an invaluable asset.
Family lawyers can be helpful in times of great stress, such as during a separation or divorce. Family lawyers can also help with times of celebration, such as adoptions.
A family lawyer can help you plan before or after you get married, and can provide support if the marriage does not work out as planned. Your family lawyer can also help you ensure your children get the support they need.