By Family Law Paralegal, Sam Barber
The fees charged by a Family Lawyer can vary dramatically depending on how experienced the Lawyer is, the complexity of the case and whether they charge an hourly rate or a fixed fee. However, they should provide you with an estimation of the expected fees from the outset.
There are many areas of Family Law that a Family Lawyer or Solicitor may specialise in, the main areas of focus being divorce, children matters and d. The cost of each matter can vary depending on the complexity of the individual case and the amount of work the Lawyer is ultimately instructed to complete.
How Do Family Lawyers Charge Fees?
Some Family Lawyers may charge fees at an hourly rate, while others may provide services on a fixed fee basis. An "hourly rate" matter is a case in which the Lawyer and client agree that the fee will be based on the length of time (or number of hours) that the Lawyer spends working on the matter. A Lawyer's hourly rate will be dependent on the level of experience that they have in that specialisation and it is not unusual to see prices varying from £150 + VAT per hour at trainee level to £300 + VAT per hour for a senior Solicitor.
To assess the cost of an hourly rate case will require the client and the Lawyer to discuss the circumstances in detail and estimate how much work the matter will require. Once this has been established, the Lawyer should be able to provide an accurate estimate of fees, though this will still only be an estimation.
A fixed fee service is where the Lawyer provides a quote before any of the work starts, and this price is guaranteed not to change. Some clients prefer this as it means they know exactly where they stand right from the start. At Co-op Legal Services, we can offer a Fixed Fee quote for most Family Law matters, including uncontested divorces, Pre/Post Nuptial Agreements, Cohabitation Agreements and Financial Orders.
Regardless of whether a Family Lawyer is charging a fixed fee or an hourly rate, they should discuss the fees with their client right at the point of initial engagement. Registered Solicitors, such as Co-op Legal Services, are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and must abide by the SRA's 'code of conduct'. The SRA states within its code of conduct that a solicitor must ensure that; "clients receive the best possible information, both at the time of engagement and when appropriate as their matter progresses, about the likely overall cost of their matter".
In most Family Law matters, there are likely to be additional costs that will need to be paid alongside the legal fees. It's important to understand what these costs are so that you can budget accordingly.
1. Court Fees
When an application is sent to Court, depending on the nature of that application, the Court will charge a fee for the application. In divorce matters, this is currently £550, in children matters the fee is £215 and in financial separation matters the fee is £255.
This fee is separate to the Lawyer or Solicitor's fee as this is paid directly to the Court and is known as a 'disbursement' (meaning a fee which is payable to a third party other than the instructed Lawyer or Solicitor.) If the client cannot afford to pay the Court fee, it is possible for them to apply to the Court for a reduction or even an exemption from the Court fees by completing a fee remission form. The Court will then assess the amount that the client will be expected to pay towards the Court fee.
2. Barrister Fees
Depending on the nature of the case there may be further disbursements required. If a case is taken to Court, for example, then the Family Law Solicitor may arrange for a barrister to represent the client at the hearing. Typically, a barrister will be able to offer a fixed fee for representation at Court.
3. Tracing Agent and Process Server Fees
Sometimes, if someone who is involved in a Family Law matter cannot be located and their contact details are unknown, a tracing agent may need to be instructed. This is an organisation which attempts to track down the missing individual.
In addition, it may also be necessary to instruct a process server, which is an organisation that serves the individual with legal documents, advising them of the legal proceedings. A process server will usually be instructed if there is an individual who is difficult to track down or who is not engaging with the proceedings. This is because the Court requires that reasonable efforts are taken to notify an individual of legal proceedings that involve them.
Can I Use Legal Aid to Cover My Fees?
Despite cut backs there are still multiple areas of Family Law in which Legal Aid is available. The Legal Aid Agency is responsible for the provision of Legal Aid within England and Wales. They will assess a client's case for funding using a three part test:
- Firstly, is the matter within the scope of cover provided by Legal Aid? See a useful breakdown of the relevant scope.
- Secondly the Legal Aid Agency will carry out a means test to assess whether you are able to cover your own legal costs.
- Thirdly, the merits of your case will be assessed. Merits refers to the likelihood of a case being successful.
To find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid, contact the Civil Legal Advice service on 0345 345 4345.
In conclusion, there is no exact way to determine how much a Family Law Lawyer will cost. As mentioned before this will vary from case to case dependent on the complexity of the case. That being said, a Family Law Solicitor should be able to provide you with an estimate of their expected fees right from the outset.