Pay As You Go – “Sustainable Retainers”
At Johnson Sauer Legal Group, we offer lower, sustainable retainer amounts with as “pay-as-you-go” approach to legal fees. This helps our clients keep costs down and avoid huge payments at the beginning of a case.
The total cost of a divorce can be impossible to predict. There is no “average” or “normal” family law case and even trying to give an estimate of the total cost is something most good lawyers will not do. The reason is simple – we really have no idea what the parties may end up fighting over, and conflict, more than anything else, determines the cost. Therefore, a pay-as-you-go approach to divorce and other family law cases works for everyone involved.
At Johnson Sauer, we provide you with a schedule of our standard, “sustainable” retainers so you know, right up front, what you’ll have to pay to hire us. Almost all family law attorneys will require you to post a retainer and sign a fee agreement, before they’ll represent you or provide you with any legal advice. A retainer is like a deposit on the fees and costs you will incur during the case. All client retainers must be held in a trust account, separate from the law firm’s office account, until the fees are earned or the costs incurred.
We set our retainers based, in large part, on the following factors:
- Type of case
- Level of conflict
A retainer may be more than enough to cover your fees and costs. In other cases, however, the retainer is only part of the cost and may be, frankly, only a drop in the bucket. At Johnson Sauer, our unique “sustainable retainer” program allows clients to post lower retainers and pay for services as they are rendered. This arrangement spreads out the total cost of your family law case over the duration.
Lower, “sustainable retainers” are a great option for clients who are cost conscious and prefer a “pay-as-you-go” arrangement. With these standardized retainers, we bill you for our work as we proceed through your case. There are other arrangements at different firms so it’s important to ask how your firm may handle fees above and beyond the retainer. Remember, a retainer is NOT a flat fee. It is not a promise that the case will cost about that much. A retainer does not even represent an assessment of how much a case may cost.
Law firms should provide regular billing statements describing the work they’ve performed to earn the fee and clearly indicate how much, if anything, you have left in their trust account. These statements should be prepared on at least a monthly basis.
“Conflict” is King
Conflict is, plain and simple, the biggest factor in determining the final cost of your case, whether it’s a divorce, custody case or modification of child support. Keeping the conflict to a low boil and picking your fights will end up saving you a not-so-small fortune in attorney fees.
During a divorce, parties often fight over legitimate issues where the two of them just see things differently. Parenting time for young children, in particular, is one of those issues that can be so difficult to resolve due to differing philosophies. Maintenance payments are likewise troublesome since there’s no consistent formula applied to determine the amount.
But equally as often as legitimate disputes, we see parties argue over emotional issues, using something else as a proxy – they say they’re fighting over the dog but in fact, there’s still so much anger over someone’s infidelity that the dog is being used as a weapon to hurt the other side. Unfortunately, a party will sometimes choose to use their kids as the weapon.
When these “proxy” disputes arise, costs can sky rocket. Since the dispute itself is irrational, attempts to find rational resolutions often don’t work. Intervention by the court can be particularly helpful with these disputes; however, this assumes that the parties have the money for the effort and that the court is available to listen.
So costly can high conflict divorces become, we once overheard opposing counsel comment after a failed settlement conference, “Now I can buy that condo in Aruba!” Divorce is by it’s nature a conflict. There’s just no avoiding disagreement – if you could have done that, you’d probably still be married. But it’s critical to successfully becoming a Divorce Survivor that each party carefully consider the costs of each and every battle.
The art of compromise may be especially distasteful during a divorce, due to the emotions associated with these cases. Yet there’s no doubt that compromise is necessary, if you sincerely want to resolve disputes. Results are better, costs are lower, and you’ll avoid the hassles of a prolonged court battle. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “is this really worth it?”
The examples in this Fees & Costs section of our website illustrate the basic retainers our firm charges for certain cases. Your retainer may be more or less depending on the circumstances of your particular case. The best way to figure out your retainer is to set a Free Consultation with one of our lawyers.
Divorce Costs Articles
Divorce Survivor Center
There’s no doubt you should consult a Colorado lawyer to protect your interests in these cases, but in the event you just can’t afford one we hope these forms help.
- Case Information Sheet
- Affidavit Re Children
- Motion to Waive Costs
- Certificate of Service
- Mandatory Disclosure List
- Certificate of Compliance
- Pre-Trial Statement
- Separation Agreement
- Parenting Plan
- Form of Decree
- Support Order
- Affidavit for Decree without Appearance of Parties
- Child Support Worksheets