In order to initiate a divorce, paternity, annulment, or legal separation case, the court requires a fee of $435.00 per party. In order to have a court hearing to receive child support or alimony or any other issues the court requires a fee of $65.00 in Los Angeles County. In certain circumstances these fees can be waived if a party is claiming "poverty".
Attorney fees are negotiable, but in general charge $375.00 an hour, with a initial retainer of at least $3,500, in other words a $3,500 retainer would entitle the client to almost 10 hours of attorney time. In certain cases we will also work on a "flat fee" (one fee for all work). The initial retainer is enough to interview the client, draft the summons, petition, and a "Request for Order", so that Jay could go to court and get temporary orders made. This would normally include the first court appearance. If Jay is representing a party that is not working and the opposing party is working we will request that the Judge or Commissioner make an order that the opposing party pay our clients attorney fees and costs.
Sometimes during a case it becomes necessary to hire a forensic accountant or a real property appraiser. Forensic Accountants charge approximately $300 an hour. A Real Property Appraiser can normally complete an appraisal for $600. If custody is contested then the court may order the parties to retain a child custody evaluator who may or may not be a psychologist or psychiatrist. The cost of these evaluations ranges from $300 to $20,000 for a full mental evaluation of several parties, by a medical doctor.
No attorney can give an estimate of the total amount of attorney fees since it often depends on which attorney the other party hires and whether the other attorney sends out numerous letters, subpoenas, other forms of discovery, or files motions or ex partes to go to court. Prior to hiring any experts or evaluators Jay always gets client approval and will balance the costs versus the benefits expected. For example, Jay will not hire investigators to search for assets in foreign countries unless the client expects that numerous bank accounts with large dollar amounts can be expected to be found since the cost of these investigations is high.