In the current financial climate, clients in family law want to know how much it’s going to cost them to weather the nuptial storm. And these days, attorneys are willing to un-bundle their services and even charge a flat rate for divorce and other family-related proceedings. While this has been a common practice for divorces that are uncontested, requiring little or no court involvement, flat fees have not until recently been offered for contested divorces.
Contested family law cases, however, are often far too unpredictable to determine the cost of the case at the onset. From the opposing counsel to the mental stability of the clients, there are many variables that can turn what seems to be a simple divorce into a lengthy battle.
The straightforward consequence of fees set too high or too low is that either the attorney or the client is going to take a monetary loss. But another concern regards the effect that the flat fee could have on the resolution process.
It seems that most of the costliest cases are driven by the client’s highly charged emotions. These emotions combined with the desire—especially in this economy—to get the most value out of a “bought and paid for” attorney could hugely hinder the negotiation and mediation efforts.
Ultimately, the hourly rate is a huge incentive for clients to put emotions aside and focus on settlement. Without this incentive, manageable cases could too easily turn into wars of attrition.