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How Much Does a Family Lawyer Cost? A Basic Guide

Family Lawyer

By law, litigants in civil cases are not generally required to have attorneys. Statistically, however, lawyers dramatically improve their clients’ chances of favorable outcomes. 

If you are headed to family court, you’re no doubt already wondering “how much does a family lawyer cost?” Do I really need one? Here’s what to expect on both counts. 

What Does a Family Lawyer Do?

A family law lawyer attorney specialises in legal issues surrounding families, both creating them and dissolving them. This includes:

  • Writing prenuptial and non-marital agreements
  • Handling all aspects of divorce, including domestic violence concerns
  • Adoption
  • Custody and child support cases
  • Child abuse or neglect cases
  • Paternity testing and fraud cases
  • Emancipation 
  • Inheritance issues
  • Legal name change requests

In every case, family lawyers bring their unique knowledge of the law to bear on their clients’ behalf. They protect clients from being taken advantage of, ensure that agreements are legal and binding, and help clients navigate the complicated court system. Where appropriate, they can also serve as a buffer between their clients and antagonistic parties, such as ex-spouses or abusers. 

How Much Does a Family Lawyer Cost?

How much is a family lawyer? The exact answer depends on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Geographic location
  • The type and complexity of the case
  • The lawyer’s experience level 
  • How they charge

Unlike personal injury lawyers, family lawyers do not work on contingency. In most cases, family attorneys require a retainer to secure their services and then charge per hour. Clients may see additional expenses, as well, such as expert testimony and court filing fees. 

For some straightforward and standardized services, attorneys may charge a flat fee instead. For example, they may charge a set amount to handle the paperwork in a private adoption case. 

Family Lawyer Cost

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On average, family lawyers start at around $200 per hour. Their services can cost up to $750 per hour on the higher end. Most require a retainer of at least $1,500 to begin, but retainers can run much higher if the case is contentious or complex. 

Total case cost varies by the type of case, as well. 

  • Amicable divorces cost an average of $6,000
  • Contested divorces average $17,500 but can cost much more
  • Private adoptions cost around $40,000
  • Paternity cases average between $2,000 and $3,000 

Estate settlement cases may be charged a percentage of the total estate value handled. For instance, if the estate is worth $250,000, the fee may be 10 percent of that or $25,000. 

The Cost of Not Having a Lawyer

In every case, not hiring a professional lawyer to represent you in family legal matters far outweighs the costs of hiring one. Not handling your family law case well the first time can cause you to lose precious assets you can never get back. It can also lead to years of court filings trying to rectify unsatisfactory arrangements or huge fees that could have been avoided with the right advice. 

Making Smart Choices

How much does a family lawyer cost? Not nearly as much as not having one when you need them. Learn more about how to make savvy financial choices in our finance section, now. 

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