Questions to ask your divorce lawyer

We know hiring a lawyer is confusing, complicated, and expensive. If you can avoid hiring a lawyer there is a good chance you should. However, sometimes it is necessary to work with a lawyer so that you can protect your legal rights. In this article, I will discuss some questions to ask your divorce lawyer. In doing so, we hope to make this difficult time easier for you.


Ask your divorce lawyer about how he or she communicates. Communication between client and attorney is very important. Certain decisions must be made by the client. The attorney must be able to explain the implications of such decisions. Many attorneys communicate via email. Others do it via phone. Some use text message. Ask them how they communicate and if you have any preference make your preference known.

Ask about lawyer fees

Hourly Fee

Before you hire a lawyer find out about his or her fee structure. Most lawyers charge hourly. The hourly fee ranges between $250 to $1000 per hour. In addition, there is a retainer fee that must be paid upfront before the lawyer to begin working. In California, it is not uncommon for a family law attorney to charge an upfront retainer of $5000 to $20,000. Sometimes, a lawyer might charge $5000 upfront (which is relatively low) but may have an hourly fee of $700 (which is relatively high). Other times, a lawyer might charge $10,000 upfront in retainer amount but only charge $300 per hour. In this example, you will likely get more done going with the second lawyer. Not all divorce lawyers charge hourly. Some charge a flat fee.

Flat Fee

Flat fee is a set fee for specific legal work. For instance, a lawyer may charge $4000.00 to complete the divorce, if there is no trial. There is no hourly in a flat fee structure. This type of fee structure gives you more certainty as the amount you may need to spend.  You will know that your attorney fees will not go above $4000.00 unless you go to trial. Flat fee is risky for lawyers because family law cases have a lot of twist and turns. The lawyer may end up having to work an amount more than the fee he or she was paid. Thus, many lawyers avoid flat fee structure.


Contingency is when the lawyer does not charge the client upfront but instead takes a percentage of whatever amount the lawyer recovers for client. In California, family law attorneys will not take divorce cases on a contingency. Thus, this option will likely be unavailable.

Payment Options

Legal services can get very expensive. Some law firms will bill you hourly but will provide clients with payment options. Some law firms will give the option of weekly payments while other firms may agree to monthly payments. Usually, the payment amount is at least $600 per month. Therefore, feel free to ask your divorce lawyer about payment options.


One way to pay for legal fees in a divorce is using a collateral as a security against your legal fees. For example, where you may own a house, you can allow the lawyer to place a lien against the property. This means that when the house is sold, the lawyer will get paid his or her legal fees. Using a collateral as a security against your attorney fees is something to consider. Talk to your lawyer about it.

Attorney Fee Request

In many marriages one party often makes significantly more income than the other. This can be because one spouse stayed home to care for the kids or worked to advance the career of the other. Regardless of the reasoning, if there is an income disparity the spouse with less or no income may request the other spouse to pay for his or her attorney fees. This is something you may want to ask your divorce lawyer about.

Who will be working on my case?

Lawyers have a different hourly fee than paralegals, law clerks, billing clerks or filing clerks. Even lawyers of different caliber may have different hourly fees. For example, an associate attorney at a law firm may have an hourly rate of $300 while a partner’s hourly fee might be $500. Paralegals and other none-attorneys may have an hourly rate of less than $200.  Remember, if there is work that can be done by a paralegal, we advise that you request the paralegal do the work. Family law is a form-based practice. A large part of the practice is administrative. You may be able to use your money more efficiently if you just ask the lawyer to do the necessary legal work as opposed to the administrative work.  In other words, the service of the lawyer may be better used for court appearance, legal research, legal analysis and drafting strong

What is the scope of representation ?

Scope of representation are the areas of which the lawyer is responsible for legally representing you. Is the lawyer responsible for your entire family law or divorce matter including custody, support and division of assets or is the lawyers representation is limited to one of these areas. It is important to clarify the lawyers scope of representation so you both can be on the same page. So don’t forget to ask about it. 

Ask what what you can expect 

No attorney can guarantee results. However, good attorneys set expectations. So, ask your divorce lawyer to give you his or her honest opinion about the strength of your case. We believe honest objective opinions about the strength and weaknesses of your case can help you make better decisions. So, ask your attorney for his or her objective opinion.


We hope you found this article useful. Our goal is to make this process a little easier by providing you with educational material. If you want to ask us any questions, feel free to schedule a call with us!