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Flat Fees vs. Hourly Billing in Divorce and Child Custody Cases

We’ve all heard the expression “time is money.” When it comes down to hiring a lawyer for your divorce or child custody case, you’ll want to save as much of both of those things as possible. Many divorce lawyers, however, will be concerned with the opposite. When you hire a divorce lawyer who charges strictly by the hour (usually in six (6) minute intervals), rather than a flat fee, you run the risk of overpaying for things that may not otherwise need to be done. Unfortunately, when the focus is on the “fight” rather than the “solutions” and how to best get there, many lawyers will often either out of a lack practicality and/or failure to being solution oriented add fuel to the fire, stir up emotions and keep you spending your hard earned money much longer than is actually necessary. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Flat Fees vs. Hourly Billing

We’ve all heard the expression “time is money.” When it comes down to hiring a lawyer for your divorce or child custody case, you’ll want to save as much of both of those things as possible.

When you begin the process of hiring a lawyer, it’s understandable that, after settling your case fairly and reaching a result that is best for your children, your top concern will be what is the future going to look like and how much it will cost you to get there. If you haven’t hired a family law attorney before, you’re sure to have many questions about how you will be able to afford this:

  • How much could this type of case end up costing me?
  • Will I be billed for every phone call or email?
  • What if I have questions but can’t afford to call?
  • How much money will I need upfront and will that be enough?
  • What if the other side is driving up my legal costs?
  • Do I have any control over this process and how can I keep the costs down?
  • Will this attorney be more concerned abut billable hours than about me and my family?
  • What are my options?

A effect and result oriented lawyer will try his or her best to answer these questions for you honestly, but there are several factors that go into determining the length of time that your case will run and the path that you will ultimately take.  Because divorce and child custody cases are frequently emotionally charged, it can be difficult to estimate a set number of hours your case will require. It is for this reason that many attorneys choose to bill you at an hourly rate, rather than a set fee, to benefit themselves and see that they do not lose money. Attorney Mike Mastracci, a/k/a mikethelawyer.com however, does his best to use a combination of flat fee and hourly billing in order to ease your mind and keep his services affordable.

Hourly Billing

When considering a divorce lawyer, you should always be wary of the term “hourly billing.” Although most if not all attorneys do use some form of hourly building, people often complain that some of these lawyers “nickel and dime” them by wasting time and doing “work” that does not actually effectively contribute to a positive outcome of their case. As you can probably guess, hourly billing rates can add up very quickly. You can at least rest assured that although many lawyers do try to get the most out of you that they possibly can, we do not. We would rather use methods and practices that resolve issues effectively and efficiently for you in a shorter period of time and with costly litigation being a last resort.

Our main concern is finding acceptable solutions and getting results for our clients, not recording every single minute of time we spend working on their case. Many attorneys have a rigid billing system where you are charged every six minutes for their time, all the time and no matter what, – we do divorce differently.

Flat Fee Billing

To our knowledge, there are no attorneys in the state of Maryland who offer strictly flat fee billing alone for their services for family law cases. In a typical fixed flat fee agreement, you would be responsible for paying one set amount for a list of services you and your lawyer would agree upon initially. Ignoring the fact that hourly billing is to the attorney’s advantage, flat fee billing means that you may not be charged extra for telephone calls, emails, letters, or attorney-client meetings. The goal of flat fee billing is to bring your situation to a conclusion as quickly and efficiently as possible without letting your finances dictate how much time and advice you receive from your attorney. Flat fee billing ensures that your attorney has your best interests in mind, not your wallet.

We have adopted many of our flat fee procedures from one of the leaders in the business, the North Carolina-based Rosen Law Firm. Usually, the cases that involve some sort of flat fee arrangement are not offered to people with cases already in the court system and those that are likely to have a very lengthy period of litigation. Many factors are considered, including past allegations of abuse, protective order filings, substance abuse complications, hiding assets, some adultery allegations, using the children as bargaining chips in settlement discussions, threats, ultimatums and the like, as well as the recent past and current actions and reactions by and between the parties.

Blended Fixed Fee and Reduced Hourly Rate Billing

We understand that time is money, and unlike some of the sharks, shysters, and so called “pitbulls” out there in the legal field, the result of your case is what matters to us, not how much money we can get out of you. That’s why we offer a mix of the two types of billing. We include some services in a flat rate, but not all services and tasks are covered under this payment. The remainder of our services may be billed at a significantly reduced hourly rate. Take this example:

  • A new divorce and child custody case is filed by Wife. Husband and Wife disagree about several parenting issues. The parties have been separated for a period of time with no set child access schedule. Husband has an attorney. Wife is looking for an attorney and has been offered the benefits of our Blended Fixed and Reduced Hourly Rate Billing. The attorney on Husband’s side is familiar to our firm and is regarded as a practical and effective attorney who is open to settlement efforts, but who will competently litigate the case if necessary. Each party is adamant about wanting sole legal and physical custody, and the history between the parties suggests that the case has all the makings of becoming an ugly custody battle if the case is not managed properly or if the other side should hire a more litigious and/or uncooperative lawyer.

In this case, Wife would pay a flat fee which would cover all the efforts to settle the case and keep it from spiraling out of control. These services would be agreed upon ahead of time and would include things like unlimited reasonable access to the attorney by phone, email and in person/office meetings throughout the entire case, the scheduling and attendance of any outside of court meetings with the opposing counsel and/or opposing party, the drafting and response to written settlement agreement(s) with opposing party and/or party’s counsel, and meetings with client individually and/or with the opposing party and/or counsel present, among other things.

In case that Wife’s case does turn into that ugly custody battle despite all efforts, that is where additional attorney fees would come in.

Flat Fees vs. Hourly Billing When Choosing a Lawyer

When it comes down to it, divorce is expensive, no matter how you’re being billed for your divorce or child custody lawyer. Your top priority when choosing the right lawyer for your case is going to be finding one who will work with you and have your best interests in mind, rather than one who just wants to nickel-and-dime you for all you’re worth. It’s always difficult to know where you should turn in the face of divorce, and all the legal jargon can be confusing to deal with if you don’t have law experience. You want to find an attorney who will gladly answer your questions without glancing at his watch every six minutes.

Beware those attorneys who want to charge you an hourly rate but who do little to bring your case to a timely and sensible conclusion that works best for YOU. Always ask why certain steps need to be taken and use your common sense. Divorce can be overwhelming and it’s easy to be led down the wrong path in a situation like this – but when you have thousands of dollars and your future on the line, you need to be able to trust your lawyer. We offer a combined method of flat fees and hourly rates – so you know what to expect before the legal procedures begin. Call Mike the Lawyer today and know you’ve found a lawyer you can put your trust in to handle your divorce and child custody case effectively and honestly. With over 25 years of litigation and settlement experience along with additional training and practice in the areas of mediation, conflict resolution techniques, collaborative law and from going through his own ugly divorce and child custody situation years ago Mike Mastracci brings a lot to the table.

Hire Mike the Lawyer Today

Hiring a lawyer should be the first thing you do when encountering any legal matter, not a last resort. Whether you’re thinking about a separation or divorce or have been charged with a crime, been injured in an accident, or your civil rights have been violated, you need to first know your rights and your options. Consulting a lawyer first can actually save you both time and money in the long run. Call Mike the Lawyer today at 410-869-3400 or visit us on the web. Be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube as well!