Do you charge for an Initial Consultation for Family Law?

For divorce, custody, mediation and support matters- Yes, and the feedback has been "worth every penny".

Let’s talk about the “Free Consultation” that some attorneys are using to lure in prospective clients. The free consultation has always popular among attorneys who work on what is called a “contingency fee basis”, when the types of cases that they handle do not get charged by the hour but rather, the attorney takes a percentage of what they can recover for you at the end.  For example, injury attorneys charge on a contingency basis. If you are hurt in a car accident and sue the at-fault driver, your attorney will take a percentage of the total recovery. 

Family Law attorneys (those who handle divorce & the aftermath, child support, child custody, etc) can't charge on this fee structure, nor would it be a good idea as family law does not lend itself well to this type of arrangement.  Some family law attorneys, to stay competitive (I suppose), will offer a free consultation of about thirty minutes or so.  I do wonder how much time those attorneys really have if they can afford to give everyone who wants one - a free consultation, but more importantly, I don’t think that free consultations are very fair to the potential client.  Have you ever heard the saying “You get what you pay for?” Exactly. I look at it this way. Going to meet with a divorce attorney is a huge deal for most people.  It is often times the first step they are taking which says “this marriage may really truly be over”. Not an easy thing to face no matter who you are. I get it.  People don’t really know what to expect and usually have a lot of questions, which are usually only asked after they have had the opportunity to give the attorney an overview of the situation and have had a chance to begin to feel comfortable during the consultation.

The time allotted for a free consultation, is simply not enough time for the attorney to really listen to what you have to say, understand the issues that are likely to be important to you in your divorce, assess the situation appropriately, talk about your kids, answer all of your questions, make recommendations specific to your concerns, and give you an overview of what you can expect in getting the process started.  A good first consultation should take anywhere from an hour to ninety minutes and not leave you feeling like you were rushed out the door. So for this, most people expect to pay a consultation fee & are glad to do so. You can expect to pay something less than what their regular hourly rate would be, and let the prospective attorney focus on YOU – rather than a free quickie meeting trying to sell themselves on to you, leaving you feeling empty handed with unanswered questions. My consultation fee for these types of cases is currently $150.00.

Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Bankruptcy, Injury, Real Estate & Mediation