One of the most common, and understandable, concerns our Bergen County divorce clients have is regarding the cost of their divorce. Specifically, most people considering a divorce or beginning the divorce process want to know how much it is going to cost them in terms of paying for an experienced and effective divorce attorney.
While some divorce attorneys may charge a one-time fee for their services, this method of paying for your divorce lawyer can be extremely risky, for reasons which we will discuss in the sections below.
On the other hand, our Bergen County divorce and family law firm, and many other divorce firms across New Jersey, charge what is called a “retainer fee” at the outset of the divorce process, and then either add or subtract from this initial estimate once the divorce has been finalized, and a clear accounting of the time your attorney spent working on your case can be taken.
But what is a retainer fee, how is it calculated, and why might it be preferable to pay for your divorce attorney in this manner rather than paying a one-time fee? Let’s take a look.
Retainer Fees and Paying for Your Bergen County Divorce Attorney
The best way to describe a retainer fee is as a kind of “down payment” for your divorce attorney’s services.
Some attorneys charge the same retainer fee to every client, while others will base their retainer fee on an assessment of your individual divorce and unique situation. For example, in cases where it is clear you and your spouse will be able to effectively work together and resolve your divorce issues of child custody, child support, alimony, and/or marital asset division through communicative negotiation, your divorce attorney can assume that your divorce will not require extensive litigation or the filing of motions etc, and will lower their retainer fee accordingly.
On the other hand, if your divorce attorney believes that either you, your spouse, or both will be unwilling to compromise in certain areas of your divorce, they will most likely charge a higher initial retainer fee as chances are they will need to litigate your position in front of a judge in family court, and file a number of different legal motions compelling information to be shared etc.
In conclusion, you can think of your Bergen County divorce attorney’s retainer fee as a down payment, but it is important to remember that it is exactly that, and your divorce may cost more than this fee, or in some cases it may cost less once all is said and done. A retainer fee never represents the final cost of your divorce, simply an initial estimate.
Ridgewood Divorce Lawyers and “The Risks of Paying a Flat Fee for Your Divorce”
So while it can be difficult going into a divorce not knowing exactly how much it will cost you, there are a number of significant risks in working with a divorce lawyer who charges a flat fee for his or her services.
On one hand, if your divorce is resolved quicker than initially estimated, you will not receive any kind of refund or reimbursement for the time saved, while an attorney operating on a retainer fee basis would refund you the cost of their unspent time.
Conversely, and of even more risk to you, is what happens when your divorce takes longer than expected, and the one-time fee you paid your divorce lawyer “runs out”. As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and it is hard to expect a divorce attorney who is not being paid for their time to do their best work. And when it comes to your divorce, and reaching fair and equitable divorce settlements, you want your attorney working hard for you, and providing you with the best possible service that they can.
As you can see, as attractive as knowing how much your divorce will cost before the process even begins can be, it comes with a number of very significant financial and legal risks, and you have to ask yourself whether or not such risks are really worth it to you.
Contact Our Hackensack Divorce and Family Law Firm Today
At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience successfully helping clients to resolve all manner of family law and divorce issues in towns across New Jersey and Bergen County, including Ridgewood, Hackensack, Paramus, Teaneck, and Fort Lee.
Whether you are just beginning the divorce process, are facing some kind of post-divorce modification issue, need help enforcing an existing divorce agreement, or simply wish to better understand your options in any family law matter, our firm is ready to provide you with the knowledgeable, effective, and attentive legal counsel that you and your family needs and deserves in such critical matters.
To speak with one of our attorneys today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, any of its related issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, or the division of assets, any kind of post-divorce issue such as a modification or enforcement request, a family law appeal or any other family law matter, please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.