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What is a Retainer Fee and How Does it Work for a Divorce Lawyer?

retainer fee for divorce lawyer

Retainer fees are common among divorce attorneys, but many clients have questions about what a retainer is and how it works. In short, a retainer is a sum of money paid up front for a lawyer’s services. ​​The fees charged are an estimate of the fees needed to start your family law matter.

As the attorney provides services to the client, the cost of those services is deducted from the retainer. The retainer is applied to various expenses associated with handling the case, such as the lawyer’s hourly fees, court costs, and other administrative expenses related to the divorce case.

Will the retainer take care of everything related to the case?

The retainer is an estimate, and while your family law attorney will try to estimate as closely to accurate as possible, things may come up during the course of your divorce that end up costing more than what was initially estimated during the case evaluation. If the retainer is depleted, you will be asked to replenish it.

If additional funds are still left in the retainer after your case has been handled, the funds may be returned; however, be sure to thoroughly read and understand your lawyer’s retainer agreement prior to engaging their services, as each divorce lawyer assesses fees differently.

How much does a retainer cost?

Retainer costs vary case-by-case depending on their complexity, but an average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer is typically between $2,500-$7,000. When hiring an attorney, it’s important to ask questions about how they charge and what is included in their retainer fee so you aren’t caught off guard with additional surprises or expenses.

Can Your Ex-Spouse Cover Some of Your Attorneys’ Fees?

When dealing with legal matters, it’s not just the retainer that you need to consider. In some cases, you might wonder if you can get some of your attorneys’ fees covered by your ex-spouse. While a retainer is a standard upfront payment, there are instances where the court may order one party to contribute to the other party’s legal expenses. Your divorce lawyer will help you determine if any of the divorce costs can be covered by your ex.


For questions about Florida family law issues or to schedule a case evaluation, contact us today at the Vasquez de Lara Law Group.

Author Bio

Vanessa Vasquez de Lara is the founder and owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, a Miami family law firm. With over 20 years of experience in family law, she has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including divorces, child support, child custody, alimony, and other family law cases.

Vanessa received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2002 and is a member of the Florida Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named to the 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Stars and the 2016-2023 Super Lawyers list.

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