Thursday, February 9, 2017

Q: What's a reasonable retainer for a divorce?

Q: What's a reasonable retainer for a divorce? Can't I just do this myself in court without an attorney?
A: Thanks for asking. If you are looking to hire an attorney for divorce, expect to hear many different amounts for retainers. Some attorneys will quote higher than they may need to, but will refund the unused portion of the retainer when your case is done.

A retainer is an amount that an attorney estimates toward how much your case might cost, in total, or for a large portion of the case. That doesn't mean that the retainer amount will cover the whole fee for your case. Again, you may have a refund once your case is done, depending on how your case goes, whether a lot of motions are needed, and how much your spouse decides to fight.

Many attorneys will also tell you their hourly rate when you hear their retainer amount. This is because the retainer is a down payment, which usually is placed in an account. The attorney then invoices against the retainer for each hour that the attorney works on your case. For example, if an attorney charges a $3,000 retainer, and has an hourly rate of $200 per hour, your retainer will be gone once your attorney has worked 15 hours on your case.

Your second question was "can I do this myself without an attorney?" Yes, a party can represent him or herself in court. But I ask you: Is this wise? Even if it seems cost effective? Your divorce has to cover many topics, such as child custody, parenting time, insurance, division of assets and debts (including retirement accounts, property, credit card debts), and child support, among others. Do you want to do this without any idea of how to go about it, when you are also feeling emotional and uncertain? Or would it be better to let a professional, who's not married to your spouse, argue for you?

Best of luck in your situation.