How Much Does a St. Louis Divorce Lawyer Charge?
When facing a critical legal issue—such as divorce—people often wonder whether they need to hire an attorney or if they can handle it themselves. Cost is often at the heart of the issue. This article will explain how a St. Louis divorce lawyer charges for his time.
As you meet with divorce lawyers in St. Louis, you'll discover they use two types of bill arrangements: Hourly fees (also known as hourly rates) and flat fees.
Hourly Billing Rates
When a lawyer charges an hourly fee, it means that you pay for the actual amount of time he spends on your case. To calculate what you owe, the total time worked is multiplied by the lawyer's hourly fee.
Hourly fees vary from attorney to attorney, depending on a number of factors. These include:
- The type of law the attorney practices
- How much experience the lawyer has
- The lawyer's reputation in the community
- The overhead costs of running the lawyer's practice, including where his office is located and how much support staff he employs
It's easy to assume a more expensive lawyer may cost more money in the long run (and this is often the case). But it's also important to remember that a more experienced St. Louis divorce lawyer may be able to work more efficiently than a less experienced, less expensive lawyer.
There are a few questions you should ask when interviewing an attorney who charges an hourly rate:
- Can you give me an estimate of the total cost to handle my divorce case?
- Does that estimate just include your legal fees, or does it also include other costs and expenses?
- If other legal costs and expenses are not included, about how much will they be?
- Do you bill in six-minute increments or 15-minute increments? (When a lawyer bills in six-minute increments, you'll be billed for six minutes of his time if he spends three minutes writing an email, or 12 minutes of time if he spends seven minutes on a phone call. When a lawyer bills in 15-minute increments, you'll be billed for a quarter-hour of time for that same three-minute email or seven-minute phone call.)
- Are you willing to negotiate on your billing rate to fit my budget?
When legal work is very predictable, attorneys are often willing to charge their clients a flat fee. This means you pay a single fee for the lawyer to perform a very specific list of work or tasks.
If, for example, you have a simple, uncontested divorce with no children, few assets and no alimony, you'll probably be able to hire a St. Louis divorce lawyer who charges a flat fee to prepare and file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and represent you in the court hearing to finalize your divorce.
On the other hand, if you and your ex are fighting over the division of assets or you're having problems negotiating a parenting plan, then there's probably too much unpredictability and you'll have trouble finding a lawyer who will represent you for a flat fee.
When interviewing a St. Louis divorce attorney who charges a flat fee, ask him:
- What is included in your flat fee? What is not included? Will I have to pay any additional out-of-pocket costs?
- How much do you charge if the scope or nature of my divorce changes?
- Are your fees negotiable?
Other Questions to Ask a St. Louis Divorce Lawyer
Whether a lawyer charges a flat fee or hourly rate, there are a few other questions you should ask to help you understand costs and make a hiring decision:
- When is payment due? What payment methods do you accept?
- Are payment plans available?
- Can you walk me through the total legal costs—including your fees, filing costs and other expenses—one more time so I understand how much it will cost me?
Once you understand how a St. Louis divorce lawyer charges for his time, you'll be in a much better position to know if you can afford to hire an attorney.