Indianapolis Family Law Fee Agreements

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A Look at Fee Agreements in Family Law Cases in Indiana

The fee agreement is part of every attorney client relationship.   It is important to understand how your attorney bills before services begin.

Rule 1.5 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct outlines criteria for attorneys to use when determining a reasonable fee for services:

  • The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
  • The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
  • The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
  • The amount involved and the results obtained;
  • The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
  • The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
  • The experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
  • Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

In certain cases, most notably personal injury and social security disability claims, the attorney may bill on a contingent fee basis.  That means the cost of services is contingent upon the successful completion of a case that results in the recovery of money.   The contingent fee amount can range based upon the attorney and type of case.   Almost all contingent fee agreements will have provisions for the client to cover any out-of-pocket costs the attorney may incur during the case.  The Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct do not allow for contingency fees in criminal or divorce matters.

A flat fee billing arrangement is common for criminal law cases.   This means the attorney will charge a flat rate to complete the case.  The client would pay a set fee for completion of a specified case.   With a flat fee case, the attorney and client know the exact amount that will be charged regardless of the timeline and/or outcome of the case.   Flat fees exist in some areas of family law but are not as common for matters where the timeline and outcome are more unpredictable.

Most domestic relations cases are billed on an hourly basis.  With hourly rate billing, the total cost of representation will be proportionate to the time spent on the case.   Your attorney will bill for any services provided such as emails, phone calls, document review and preparation and court time.  For example, if the attorney works on your case for 12 minutes and has a rate of $250.00 per hour, the charge for that activity would be A$50.00.  Most hourly rate cases will require the payment of a retainer.   A retainer is a pre-payment of fees that are held in a trust account by the law firm.  Rule 1.15 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct requires attorneys to maintain an IOLTA account to hold funds for any hourly cases.  When services are rendered, the attorney will collect funds from the retainer.  The required retainer amount will vary by attorney and complexity of the case.

Regardless of the type of billing arrangement, it is necessary for every client to fully understand the billing practices of their attorney before services begin.

If you or someone you know has questions about fee arrangements for criminal or family law matters, Banks & Brower, LLC can assist.  Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at

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