Almost everyone facing the prospect of hiring a family law attorney is concerned with the total cost. Attorneys have a reputation for being expensive, and in some cases, that reputation is well deserved. In most cases, family law attorneys bill their clients by the hour, leaving clients with no certainty as to the total cost of attorney fees. Accordingly, an individual thinking about hiring a family law attorney may wonder whether they can hire an attorney for a flat fee.
Limited Scope Representation
Clients can usually hire a family law attorney for a flat fee when they sign a limited scope representation agreement. In contrast to the traditional scenario where the family law attorney agrees to represent the client in all aspects of their case, in limited scope representation, the family law attorney only agrees to represent the client at a particular court appearance or perform specific tasks like completing judicial council forms.
Flat fees can work in limited scope representation because the attorney can estimate how many hours a particular task or court appearance will take. In contrast, when a client hires an attorney to represent them in their divorce with no limitation, the attorney doesn’t know how many hours it will take to satisfy the client’s legal objectives.
This is the most common instance in which a family law attorney may accept a flat fee. Some clients need an attorney to draft the initial paperwork, including financial disclosures. In that instance, a family law attorney may charge a flat fee to draft specific documents and coach the client on filing the documents and the next steps in the divorce process.
An attorney in theory can take a case pro bono, meaning for no fee. This is extremely rare in family law. If an individual truly cannot afford to hire a family law attorney, they should contact their local family law self-help center. This self-help center is also called the county family law facilitator’s office and they offer procedural assistance. While the family law facilitator’s office can’t represent you in court, they can help you navigate the process so you can better represent yourself.