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Five Primary Elements of a Divorce Attorney Fee Agreement

Representation by a divorce lawyer official begins when a fee agreement is signed by a client and attorney. If you are in the process of retaining a divorce lawyer, you need to familiarize yourself with the basic elements of an attorney fee agreement. While a fee agreement can and does differ from one situation to another, there are five primary elements associated with a divorce attorney fee agreement that you need to bear in mind:

  • An attorney fee agreement should be in writing
  • A lawyer fee agreement needs to detail the retainer and when it is payable
  • An agreement for legal representation needs to specifically set forth the hourly rate
  • An attorney fee contract needs to detail matters associated with billing
  • An agreement should set forth when bill payments are due
Attorney Fee Agreement in Writing

An attorney fee agreement should be in writing. Long gone are the days when retaining an attorney can be done with a simple handshake. While putting a fee agreement in writing does not completely eliminate the chance that something might go awry regarding the financial component of legal representation, it does lessen the prospects that there might be an issue at a later date.

The fee agreement needs to specifically delineate the extent of representation that will be provided to you by legal counsel. The agreement should set forth what will represent the conclusion of representation.

Lawyer Fee Agreement Retainer Information

A fee agreement should spell out specific information about the retainer. This needs to include the total amount required as a retainer and when the retainer is due.

In some instances, a lawyer will require payment of a retainer at the time a fee agreement is signed. In other cases, a lawyer and client may enter into a fee agreement which spells out the amount of the retainer and sets a date certain by which it is to be paid. The prevailing practice is for a divorce attorney not to begin work on a case until a retainer is paid.

A divorce lawyer may accept payments on a retainer if a person is unable to pay the full amount. With that said, this type of situation can result in a delay of the commencement of representation in some instances.

Legal Counsel Contract and Hourly Rate

A typical divorce attorney charges an hourly rate for professional services. The hourly rate must be clearly set forth in a free agreement.

The contract also needs to delineate how a lawyer's time actually is charged. For example, there may be a minimum charge for a phone call. Additionally, some lawyers utilize paralegals or legal assistants. If there is a specific charge for those services, that needs to be enumerated in the fee agreement as well.

Billing and Legal Representation

A typical attorney fee agreement sets forth how billing will occur going forward during the course of representation. This includes information about how frequently a client will receive a bill.

A fee agreement should also explain the specific information a bill will contain. In other words, an attorney fee agreement should set out how specific the contents of a bill will be during the period of representation.

An attorney fee agreement should establish how a client wants the bill delivered. For example, the contract should indicate whether the client wants the bill mailed or delivered electronically.

Information About Bill Payment Timeframe

An attorney fee agreement needs to set forth the timeframe when bills need to be paid. For example, an agreement might set forth that a client needs to pay a bill within 30 days of receipt.

Once in a while a law firm or attorney might offer some sort of payment plan for a bill or attorney fees. If this is a possibility, what may be available needs to be set forth specifically in an attorney fee agreement.

As is the case with any contract, you must read a divorce attorney fee agreement before you sign. If you have any questions about the agreement, be certain to obtain full and complete answers before executing the document. Never sign an attorney fee agreement if it contains something you do not understand. If you have any questions about divorce or family law, contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-700 for a free consultation.

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