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FLAT FEES: A General Outline of a Family Law Case

On Behalf of | Feb 17, 2016 | Family Law

As a family law practitioner, nearly all of my clients ask me two questions during their initial consults: “What is going to happen in my case, once it is filed?” and, “How much is my case going to cost me in attorney’s fees?”

While family law cases generally follow a track through the court system, it can be hard to determine what an individual case will cost. The facts of the case, how the other party behaves, how quickly the courts are able to schedule hearings, or how long a final trial takes to complete are all factors that contribute to how fast a family law case can be resolved.

In particular, Associated Attorneys of New England strives to keep our representation affordable and to provide exceptional legal services within our client’s budgets.  With that goal in mind, I am elated to announce that we will be taking family law matters on a new flat fee system.  This is also known as a fixed fee. Basically, the price is set at the beginning so you know exactly how much it will be and can plan accordingly.

What is going to happen in my family law case?

Family law cases in New Hampshire start with an initial pleading, or a request for the court to help the parties obtain certain relief.  These range from ex parte petitions, or a petition requesting emergency help with a situation, to Petitions for Divorce.  There are a wide range of initial filings that can start off a family law matter.

Once the matter is served, the parties have 45 days to make what are known as mandatory financial disclosures or Rule 1.25-A disclosures. By law, the parties must exchange certain information about their finances.  Failure to do so can lead to you paying attorney’s fees for the other party, being found in contempt of court, or the Judge ruling against you.

Unless there is an emergency situation, the court next schedules parties for a Structuring Conference or a First Appearance.  While these two hearings have different names, they are essentially the same in that parties will appear to pick dates and times for future hearings.  In most cases, the parties will also select a date to attend mediation.  Parties will minor children will also be required to attend a Child Impact Seminar, to learn about the impact of divorce and parenting disagreements on the children involved.

New Hampshire courts encourage and often mandate that the parties involved attend mediation.  At mediation, you are given an opportunity to work with a court-appointed mediator to attempt to settle the case.  Many times, this stage helps resolve the case entirely.

Mediation is not, however, the end of all cases.  If the case does not entirely settle during mediation, then the court will hold hearings to attempt to resolve the case.  These hearings may include a temporary hearing, where the court issues temporary orders, or a final hearing, where the case is ruled on as a final matter.  In some cases, parties will request additional hearings for a wide range of problems.

Family law cases are time consuming and expensive, as well as emotionally taxing.  These cases touch a wide range of issues, from who is responsible for getting the children to school, to who gets to keep the family dog.

Unfortunately, attorney’s fees can rack up easily between mediation, multiple hearings, filing motions, and ensuring that all court orders and Family Division rules are followed.  One of the best ways to keep your attorney’s fees down, while ensuring that your rights are represented and protected, is to pay a flat fee for family law representation.

How does a flat fee family law case work?

Our New Hampshire family law lawyers have created a unique pricing guide to determine what the flat fee will be for each matter.  Clients call in and describe their case and are quoted a price based on the pricing guidelines for each six months of the case.

That quoted price is your flat fee, and pays for the first six months of representation by your attorney. Many of our flat fees are lower than initial retainers at competitive firms, and you know exactly the price you are paying for representation.

Your flat fee gives you all the benefits of legal representation without the constantly mounting bills, up until a final trial. We work for you for a flat rate every six months and you rest assured that your attorney’s fees are reasonable, predictable, and affordable.

What are the flat fees for my case?

Every case is different, and every flat fee may be a little different. Our family law lawyers have created a proprietary pricing guide to calculate your flat fee rate.  The best way to get an estimate is to call in to our Manchester, NH office and speak to a family law attorney.  Providing a brief description of your case will help us create an estimate of how much your case will cost for our representation.  There is no cost or obligation when calling in a for free consultation or fee estimate. Once you meet with us, and we set the fixed flat rate price- that WILL be the cost.  Unlike traditional hourly billing at other law firms where the cost keeps going up and up and up- the flat rate allows you to plan and know that you will get what you signed-on for at the price we quoted.

How long will my case take to complete?

Many cases can and should be completed in six months- that is out goal. However, you should be informed that a typical case takes up to one year to be fully completed. (Complex divorces can take years to complete.) As you know, every case is unique, and the New Hampshire courts are in control of scheduling matters, so we cannot give you an exact timeframe- no one can, it is simply beyond any lawyer’s control. As explained in this article, the court has a system they must follow, and additional delays could be caused by the opposing party or their lawyer. The good news is that we will do our best to ensure your case is concluded as quickly and efficiently as possible and in your best interest.

If your case takes more time to complete, never fear! We are here to help you and are always happy to continue fighting for your rights.

What if my case goes to a final trial?

Oftentimes, the most expensive part of a family law case is the final hearing- also known as the “Trial.” Many hearings last several days and the preparation for a final hearing can take your attorney many hours to complete.  With attorney’s fees averaging about $250 per hour, ten hours of hearing preparation alone could cost you $2,500 if paid hourly – and that is a conservative estimate for the time it would take to for your counsel to fully prepare for a final hearing (if you want to win…I’m sure many lawyers just “show-up”…that might be cheap, but it isn’t good!)  Add that prep-time to an eight hour full-day in Court, and your attorney’s bills have just reached $4,500! For one day of trial alone!

Thankfully, our pricing guide extends to final trial, and our flat fees for trial are based on the amount of time which the court has designated for the trial itself.  For each scheduled day of a final trial, an attorney will represent you for an affordable flat fee, calculated based on the length of time scheduled for your final trial.  This ONE fee includes ALL the preparation work performed by your attorney and their attendance with you at the final trial.

Fortunately, many cases settle prior to a final hearing and we will certainly strive to settle the matter before trial, if at all possible.

How do I get started?

It’s simple.  Contact us here, online or call Associated Attorneys of New England at 603-622-8100, and be prepared to briefly discuss your case with one of our family law attorneys.  If the flat fee system will work for your case, then we will schedule a prompt consult and get started on fighting for your rights and your family.  Of course, if you prefer to deposit a traditional retainer and pay hourly, we can accommodate you in that manner as well.  Hourly rates range from $150/hour to $295/hour.

We look forward to working with you!

Atty. Brown focuses her practice on Family Law, including: grandparent rights, custody, child support, parenting plans, parental rights, visitation, mediation, guardian ad litem review, guardianships, domestic violence (DV Orders), abuse or neglect, and basically all things Family Court related. Call 603-622-8100 today for a free consultation!