Many people considering divorce search for a flat fee divorce attorney. After all, the certainty of a flat fee is preferable to the unknown total cost that comes with hourly billing. However, do flat fee divorce attorneys exist? What services can a divorce attorney offer for a flat fee? This article will explain the difference between a flat fee and hourly billing and the situations in which an attorney may charge a flat fee for divorce.
Hourly Billing vs. Flat Fee
Divorce attorneys normally charge by the hour. What that means is that a Modesto divorce attorney will first charge a retainer fee which functions as a deposit. As the attorney works on the case they send out an invoice reflecting the number of hours worked multiplied by their hourly rate. For example, if an attorney charges $250 per hour and worked a total of 10 hours on a client’s case, they would send a bill for $2,500. ($250 x 10 hours = $2,500). Once the invoice is sent, the attorney withdraws the billed amount from the client’s initial deposit (aka retainer fee). If the retainer runs out then the client pays another retainer fee to replenish the deposit.
A flat fee is a fixed amount paid for a defined scope of service. Rarely does a flat fee cover all areas of representation that may arise in a divorce. For instance, a flat fee will usually not cover child custody, property division, trial, etc. Contested family law cases can take years and require an unknown amount of attorney time. Accordingly, flat fees are usually charged for specific services, like document preparation which is otherwise known as ghostwriting. For example, a divorce attorney may charge a flat fee to prepare the summons, petition for dissolution, etc. The flat fee won’t cover anything else like representation at a hearing, but it will cover the defined scope of service which is preparing the identified documents.
Do Flat Fee Divorce Attorneys Exist?
Flat fee divorce attorneys likely refer to attorneys that charge a flat fee for document preparation or limited scope representation. In limited scope representation, the attorney agrees to represent a client in one specific aspect of their family law case. For instance, the attorney may charge a flat fee to represent the client at a child custody hearing. That flat fee will guarantee the client representation at that specific hearing, but not with regard to other aspects of the case. Accordingly, flat fees usually don’t cover everything necessary to resolve a family law case, just a specific step in the case or document preparation.