Attorney’s Fees in Tennessee Divorce Law FAQs
Attorney’s Fees in Tennessee Divorce Law. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Memphis divorce lawyer Miles Mason, Sr. Courts can award attorney’s fees as alimony in Tennessee divorces.
How are Tennessee divorce attorney’s fees calculated?
The exact fee will vary with the services you require. Family law cases require many services and activities.
Issues may include: separation, divorce, custody, visitation, alimony, child support, property division, valuation of assets, and recovering your attorney’s fees and costs from your spouse.
Services may include: court appearances, research, investigation, correspondence, conferences, settlement negotiations with your spouse’s attorney, preparation of pleadings and other legal documents, pre-trial discovery, trial preparation, and trial.
Your attorney will also advise you concerning your assets, liabilities, income, expenses, insurance, and taxes and make recommendations about property division and support.
If a trial is necessary, the court can order one spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees in alimony, child support, and child custody matters. However, the amount awarded by the court will rarely cover the full amount of the attorney’s fees.
Attorneys Fees in Tennessee Divorce Law
Keeping Divorce Lawyer’s Fees Down in Tennessee
Attorneys generally charge by the hour. Hourly rates can differ dramatically from attorney to attorney. Hourly rates range from $150 per hour to over $500 per hour. A higher hourly rate doesn’t guarantee better service. Some lawyers will charge different hourly rates depending upon the complexity of the case. Attorneys may also charge a flat rate for the entire divorce or for a particular stage of litigation.
How much are court costs in Tennessee divorces?
Court costs are approximately $250 – $500 if the case is totally uncontested. In addition, court costs may vary among Fayette County (Somerville), Davidson County (Nashville), Williamson County (Franklin), and Shelby County (Memphis, Tennessee).
If there are many motions or other hearings, the court costs could be several hundred dollars more.
In addition to courts costs, expenses can include court reporter fees, and costs for copies, subpoena service, expert’s fees, deposition transcription, telephone toll calls, and other out-of-pocket costs.
What is a reasonable fee?
Each case is different, with fees ranging from several hundred dollars to over $100,000 in hotly contested custody matters or divorces with larger estates and complex financial issues.
I went to one lawyer who said that he would charge me a percentage of the settlement. Isn’t this a good deal for someone with limited financial resources?
No. Contingency fees in divorce cases are suspicious and are subject to very strict requirements in Tennessee divorce law. Even if a person has a very large estate, this type of fee calculation is not a generally accepted practice.
The lawyer I selected asked me to pay a retainer. Is this appropriate?
Absolutely. Lawyers are compensated for their time and advice. There is an old saying that when a client pays a retainer, the client knows he or she has a lawyer, and the lawyer knows he or she has a client. However, always make sure your retainer agreement with the lawyer is in writing.
How do I know if time charges are accurate?
Two very important things to look for are a written agreement or contract and detailed monthly billing statements or invoices. The written agreement should spell out in detail how time is billed and fees are calculated. The billing statements should be generated generally on a monthly basis and be detailed.
There is no iron-clad way of knowing whether time charges are accurate, but insist on an itemized statement and compare the charges to time you know that was spent. For example, if you spoke to the lawyer for 15 minutes on February 20, make a record of the call and compare it with the invoice. If you’re concerned that the bill might be wrong, call your lawyer and ask questions.
If you dispute the fee or aren’t satisfied with your lawyer’s response, put your reasons in writing and mail them to the lawyer. The lawyer is required by the ethical code of the profession to respond to your concerns and answer all questions directly. If your lawyer is evasive, hire another lawyer. If there’s a major billing dispute that is not resolved, all states have boards that can discipline lawyers.
What can I do if I want to hire a lawyer but have no control over marital funds?
If your spouse controls the family’s money, you are entitled to ask the court for attorney’s fees pendente lite, which means the court can order your spouse to pay fees to your lawyer at the beginning of the divorce. Discuss this with your attorney. This is a common situation, and while each case is different, the lawyer may have helpful suggestions.