Ouch! If a marriage ends and divorce becomes a reality, an attorney should lead you through the complicated maze of legal issues presented in divorce court, especially if child custody and child support will be part of the discussion. There are two ways to pay divorce attorney’s fees in such cases: a flat fee and an hourly rate. No lawyer should agree to take a percentage if and when he or she is successful with the divorce litigation. In other words, “contingent fee agreements” are not applicable here, even though they are very common in personal injury cases. Additionally, there are two types of costs a client will have to pay: attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Oftentimes, a lawyer will ask for prepayment in the form of a “retainer.” If the retainer is to be non-refundable, the lawyer is required to obtain the client’s prior consent and agreement in writing. As far as “flat fees” are concerned, this can be a one-time payment that pays the attorney’s professional fees. For example, a Fort Myers lawyer might agree to represent a woman in a divorce case, and accept a one-time payment of $10,000, for example, to cover all the time the lawyer spends on the case, even if it takes a year-and-a-half to litigate. Litigation costs, such as the court filing fee of approximately $400, may be paid or billed separately. Retaining an attorney on “an hourly rate” means the client pays a retainer (usually) and agrees to pay the attorney $250 per hour, for example, for each and every hour the lawyer is actively engaged in working on the divorce. Remember: lawyers sell their time. Again, litigation costs, such as the cost of hiring court reporters, are charged and billed separately. Normally, with an hourly rate case, the client receives a bill, periodically, identifying what work has been done, and the time taken to do it, plus costs expended during that billing period. So, in summary, to hire a lawyer for a divorce, you may pay a retainer at first, and you will probably be billed for costs, even though the retainer can be used for pre-paid litigation costs as well (depending on the Fee Agreement entered into), and a client can pay the lawyer either with one lump sum up front OR pay the lawyer by the hour during the pendency of the litigation.