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What Divorce Retainers Are and Why Attorneys Require Them

Can I Withdraw Money from Joint Accounts During Divorce?
Why Divorce Attorneys Require Retainers

When you consult with a divorce attorney, you will likely discuss pricing. Most Los Angeles divorce attorneys require a retainer payment.

A retainer is basically a prepayment which is required to begin work on a legal matter.

The reasoning behind a retainer is simple: you want your attorney to be available for you and to have the funds to act on your behalf when needed.

How a divorce retainer works and the benefits to the client can be the topic of some confusion. Let's clear it up.

How It Works

Most Los Angeles divorce attorneys charge hourly rates for their services. A retainer is an upfront payment for these services.

Each month, you should receive a detailed and itemized bill showing the work done, time incurred, and costs advanced. This amount will be deducted from your retainer account.

The retainer funds belong the client until they are earned by the attorney or used for expenses and costs, like court filing fees and deposition fees.

Attorneys must return any funds that are unused at the end of your employment of the attorney. California attorneys are subject to strict rules regarding management and record keeping for maintaining retainer funds.

Generally, in a divorce, a retainer is not meant to cover the entire cost of your case. It is impossible for a divorce attorney to predict the total cost of a case upfront. Some cases settle expediently and others require multiple court hearings, or even a trial.

So, if the initial retainer gets used up, you should expect to replenish the retainer. A retainer is not a flat fee. There are ways to manage your attorney fees and to use attorney time efficiently. Read more about that here.

Why Divorce Attorneys Require Retainers

Having a good, experienced family law attorney is critical.
Having a good, experienced family law attorney is critical.

The primary function of a retainer is for a client to secure an attorney's availability.

Once the attorney is funded, she can begin gathering facts, contacting opposing counsel, preparing documents, and appearing for court hearings. You can contact the attorney with questions, email the attorney, and schedule phone calls or meetings.

You want your attorney to be available when you need her, and you want her to be funded so she can pay the necessary costs and fees on your behalf as well. For example, your case might require court filing fees, hiring a process server, or hiring court reporter for a deposition.

Many legal matters are time sensitive, so delay generally does not serve clients well. This is another reason why it is important to keep your attorney properly funded: to make sure you are ready to deal with time sensitive issues that inevitably arise in a divorce.


The Law Office of Emily E. Rubenstein is a full service divorce and family law firm. We proudly serve Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, the South Bay, Glendale, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and all of Los Angeles County.

Give us a call or check out our website:

(310) 750-0827 |

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