September 23, 2014

Attorney Fees – how much will it cost?

Attorney fees – how much will it cost?

Attorney fees for divorce, custody and domestic relations actions are billed on an hourly basis because Michigan law does not allow for contingency billing in domestic cases.  We understand that cost is important to everyone.  The best way to estimate cost is after a free confidential consultation. During a consultation we will create an affordable action plan to achieve your goals.  If you are unable unable to bear the expense of a divorce, custody or support case and the other party is able to pay, we can help you can ask the court to order the other party to pay your attorney fees.

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Attorney fees explained

The cost of a divorce, custody or family law case is directly proportional to the complexity of the case.  The most common variables that increase cost are contested child custody matters, followed by the failure of a party to fully disclose his/her assets and liabilities.  The most effective way to estimate the cost of a divorce is by scheduling a free consultation to discuss your goals.  Many simple divorces can be completed for a modest fee and complicated cases run higher.  Michigan divorce lawyers are prohibited from entering into a contingency fee arrangement.  Therefore, attorney fees are billed on an hourly basis.

Our experienced and seasoned Michigan divorce and family law team know how to solve even the most complicated problems without breaking the bank.

The Law – Cases and statutes on attorney fees in Michigan

Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL), Michigan Court Rule (MCR), the Michigan Courts and the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct provide statutory and legal guidance regarding attorney fees in Michigan.

I.  Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL):  MCL 552.14(1) governs attorney fees in divorce and separation cases.

  • Fees paid by spouse – statute: MCL 552.14 provides in pertinent part that “In every action brought, either for divorce or separation, the court may require either party .  .  .  to pay any sums necessary to enable the adverse party to carry out or defend the action.  .  . “

II.  Michigan Court Rule (MCR):  MCR 3.206(C) governs attorney fees and expenses in domestic relations cases.

  • Fees paid by spouse – court rule:  MCR 3.206(C)(2) provides that a party requesting contribution towards their divorce attorney fees must allege facts sufficient to show that:

(a) The party is unable to bear the expense of the action, and that the other party is able to pay or

(b) The attorney fees and expenses were incurred because the other part refused to comply with a previous court order,

despite having the ability to do comply.

III.  Michigan Rules of Professional conduct (MPRC):  MRPC 1.5 governs fees.

  • Reasonableness of fees:  MRPC 1.5(a) A lawyer shall not enter into an agreement for charge, or collect an illegal or clearly excessive fee.  A fee is clearly excessive when , after review of the facts, a lawyer of ordinary prudence would be left with a definite and firm conviction that the fee in in excess of a reasonable fee.  The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services;  and(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
  • Contingent fees not allowed:  MRPC 1.5(d) prohibits a lawyer to enter into an arrangement for, charge or collect a contingent fee in a domestic relations matter.

IV.  Case law

Detailed billing records required:  

Smith v. Khouri, 481 Mich 519 (2008):  A request for attorney fees must be accompanied by detailed billing records, which the court must examine and opposing parties may contest for reasonableness.

Court may order a party to pay attorney fees:

Lockhart v. Lockhart 149 Mich App. 10 (1986) A court can only order a party and not an attorney to pay a divorce attorney fee.

Attorney fees must be reasonable:

Miller v. Miller Inc, 219 Mich App 476 (1996):  When requested attorney fees are contested, it is incumbent on the trial court to conduct a hearing to determine what services were actually rendered and the reasonableness of those services.

Petterman v. Haverhill Farms, Inc.   125 Mich App 30 (1983):  The burden of proving the reasonableness of requested attorney fees rests with the party requesting them.

Wood v DAIIE, 413 Mich 573 (1982):  Six factors to be considered in determining a reasonable attorney fee: (1) the professional standing and experience of the attorney; (2) the skill, time and labor involved; (3) the amount in question and the results achieved; (4) the difficulty of the case; (5) the expenses incurred; and (6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client.

Education is key.  I encourage you to read the articles on this website and ask questions.

We are here to help you navigate this journey by focusing on you goals.  If you have any questions concerning any aspect of the law, let my know.  Our Michigan divorce attorneys are here to help and so am I.  My direct line is 248-399-3300 or toll free 877 YOUR FIRM. By:  Daniel Findling  (c) 2014 Findling Law The Divorce Guy, Michigan Divorce Attorneys and Specialists www.thedivorceguy.com www.divorceforum.com 877-YOUR FIRM

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