Attorney Retainers in Divorce

Save money in divorce

Understanding how attorney retainers and fees work can save you money in your divorce!

Everyone would like to save money in divorce and some things are in your control.  Today I was again reminded about how the average layperson does not understand the concept of an attorney retainer, which in Wilmington is usually $5000 (per spouse) in a divorce.  A true “retainer” is a fee paid to reserve your attorney’s time.  Your attorney can immediately keep that payment.  Most “retainers” that are asked for by an attorney are not retainers at all, they just commonly refer to them as a retainer.  Most “retainers” are actually cash advances that are put into a trust account and charged against as they do the work.  Any unused portion SHOULD be refunded.  From the stories I hear, that is often not the case.  You need to clarify this when you retain an attorney.  Here is a link to an article on the NC State Bar website which discusses retainers.  Anyone hiring a family law attorney should read this  How your attorney handles retainers could tell you a lot about their ethics.

Understanding your contractual agreement with your attorney and how they bill is crucial if you want to keep your attorney fees down and save money in your divorce. Another example of what you need to know about your attorney is their incremental billing rate.  It can run from 6 minute to 15 minute minimum increments.  That 2 minute phone call could cost you $25 or it could cost you $62.50 (based on a $250 per hour rate). That difference could also save you lots of money in your divorce.  There are so many other considerations you need to think of.  I worked at large law firms in Dallas, TX for the first 11 years of my professional career so I know how attorneys work and what drives them.

How to hire and work with an attorney is part of my divorce planning and coaching process.  Knowing how to prevent needless attorney fees could cover my costs, just in itself!  So seek the advice of a Certified Divorce Financial Planner.  You will be glad you did.


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