How Much Does a Family Law Attorney Cost? 

A potential client may wonder how much a family law attorney costs. The answer depends on the complexity of the case, as complex child custody cases require many court appearances and preparation time. Sometimes, a family law attorney will handle a limited scope of the cases, while others are willing to handle complex cases on a contingency fee basis. When considering attorney fees, prospective clients should ask their potential lawyers about their experience and their fee schedule.

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Retainer fee 

Typically, family law attorneys bill clients a retainer fee. Although the term is a misnomer, it is an advanced fee system. Retainer funds are placed into an attorney’s trust account, although they are still the client’s money. The attorney will create an invoice for the work he or she completes. As this work is completed, the retainer money is removed from the account. The retainer amount may be reduced as the attorney finishes more work. 

The amount of the retainer fee depends on the circumstances of the divorce case. If the divorce is secret and only the divorcing spouse is aware of it, a retainer fee may seem reasonable. If the prospective attorney has contacted the spouse’s lawyer, this payment may seem reasonable. However, if the spouse is completely unaware of the divorce, it may be more difficult to establish the fee. If your spouse does not know that you need a lawyer, the retainer fee can seem ridiculous. 

Hourly rate 

Family law attorneys charge by the hour and can vary significantly in price. While California state law sets a maximum hourly rate of $295, individual attorneys may charge a lower rate based on experience or type of service. For example, some divorce lawyers may charge more for their time preparing for trials than for their time handling non-trial matters. So how do you choose an attorney that fits your needs and budget? 

While family law attorneys are notorious for playing dirty, many of them are also regarded as peacemakers. These lawyers are worth their fees and often serve as financial advisors, crisis managers, and therapists. A peacemaker attorney can be very effective in resolving conflict and protecting your rights in the courtroom. Listed below are some tips for choosing the right family law attorney for your needs. But don’t let the price tag scare you. 

Contingency fee 

In most states, attorneys are not allowed to work on contingency in family or criminal law cases. There are some exceptions, including immigration cases and contract law. For other types of cases, however, a contingency fee may be appropriate. A contingency fee allows you to hire a lawyer without the need to pay them a large sum of money upfront. This arrangement is often favorable for people who cannot afford a large legal bill while their case is pending. 

In cases of malpractice or accident, the court may approve the lawyer’s fee if the case ends in a win. In these cases, the attorney must file a detailed accounting of the expenses, which may involve a fee. Ultimately, the fee depends on the outcome of the case. Contingency fees in these areas are uncommon in criminal and family law cases. Nevertheless, they are becoming more common. 


It is essential to look for a family law attorney with at least three years of experience. Experience is critical in this field, as many lawyers practice family law only part-time. You will also want someone skilled at negotiation, debate, and persuasion. It is crucial to look for experience and training in these areas before hiring a family lawyer. A family law attorney can be invaluable when it comes to resolving difficult situations. 

When choosing a family law attorney, be sure to look for a lawyer who has handled cases similar to yours. Often, these cases are emotionally charged and may include a significant amount of conflict. Experienced attorneys know how to defuse these situations, and may even involve the assistance of child custody evaluators and mediators. These efforts can help bring rationality back into the equation. Appealing to reason and reducing conflict can benefit both parties. Family law attorneys use strategies that have worked time again. A good tactic can dissipate intransigence and lead to a settlement.