For legal representation regarding domestic violence, a divorce attorney, criminal law attorney, or family law attorney can represent you or your family in cases where you need legal support. Domestic violence, as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, is "a pattern of abusive behavior … used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person."
Attorneys can serve in a variety of capacities in instances of domestic violence. Legal support may include seeking protective orders for victims of domestic violence, providing legal representation in a divorce or paternity case that is also related to domestic violence, providing criminal representation for those charged with domestic violence, and providing legal support to protect children who are victims of domestic violence. If you or a loved one needs legal representation pertaining to domestic violence, here are the cost factors to consider.
Legal fees for domestic violence cases vary based on client needs and case type, and for that reason a flat rate is uncommon. "I occasionally offer a flat fee for criminal representation but never for family law cases," says Robert Terry of Law Office of Robert Terry, LLC. “I determine legal fees by where the case is and its complexity and whether other cases are tied to it, such as criminal cases, divorce and/or paternity cases,” says Bryan W. Caddell, P.C. Due to the subjective nature of each case, many domestic violence cases are billed on an hourly rate. Hourly rates will vary based on the lawyer’s experience and reputation, your geographic location, and whether you are working with an individual lawyer or one who is part of a firm. Here are two examples of hourly rates:
Trial will substantially increase the cost of a case because of the time spent on discovery, preparation and the actual trial, explains Terry of Law Office of Robert Terry, LLC. For his firm, "it would be fair to say that a trial increases the cost of a family law case (resulting in divorce or legal separation that also involves domestic violence) by at least $5,000." This price includes all the extra discovery and preparation as well as the hearing itself, explains Terry. “If we go to trial, I work out payment arrangements if the original retainer is expended,” says Bryan W. Caddell, P.C.
Each state has its own laws regarding domestic violence. For example, "there are no cases in Colorado where domestic violence is a stand-alone issue," says Terry of Law Office of Robert Terry, LLC. “If related to a criminal matter, domestic violence is an enhancer to the underlying charge. For example, if you hit your spouse you would be charged with assault, just like if you hit your neighbor. However, because it is your spouse it is enhanced as a domestic violence charge. On criminal cases, trial usually results in an increase in cost of approximately $2,500 if it is a misdemeanor underlying charge. If a felony, it is about $5000 or more.”
Additional cost factors
Other factors that can impact cost are the case’s complexity and whether other cases are tied to it, such as criminal cases, divorces and paternity cases, says Bryan W. Caddell, P.C. Additional factors include where the case is filed, who the opposing attorney is, who the judge is, and scheduling issues.
Domestic violence cases
Legal fees for each domestic violence case will vary depending on case circumstances, geographic location, the lawyer hired and more. Here are several examples of case costs:
Protective order hearing: $500 from Bryan W. Caddell, P.C.
Services included: Preparation, investigation and court appearance; legal counsel regarding client’s safety before and after the protective order was granted; and recommendations for counseling and support services.
Attorney time on case: 3.5 hours.
Divorce and protective order hearing: $1,500 from Bryan W. Caddell, P.C.
Services included: Preparation, investigation and court appearance; legal counsel regarding client’s safety before and after the protective order was granted; recommendations for counseling and support services; and advice regarding custody, visitation, child support, property division, alimony and attorney fees.
Attorney time on case: 3.5 hours on protective order and 6.5 hours on divorce.
Child custody case with protection order: $12,000 from Law Office of Robert Terry, LLC.
Case details: Legal representation for a client falsely accused of being involved in a physical altercation with the mother of his child (in his home). The mother was advised by law enforcement to file for a protection order so the client wouldn't be allowed in the home. She requested a protection order; the firm fought it and won. The child custody issue was ultimately resolved.
Services included: Drafted all appropriate paperwork, filed all appropriate paperwork, attended all hearings and represented client before the judge; coordinated expert testimony and prepped experts for trial; and maintained counseling and medical records for presentation at hearings.
Attorney time on case: One-year case, approximately 60 hours.
Highly disputed divorce case with significant violence involved and child custody battle: $25,000 from Law Office of Robert Terry, LLC.
Details of case: Complex case with multiple hearings and considerable legal maneuvering to protect the minor child's well-being. This case involved rape, emotional abuse and manipulation; the parties were not in a position to communicate with each other at all and opposing counsel dismissed all of the client’s allegations as false.
Services provided: Drafted and filed all appropriate paperwork, attended all hearings and represented client before the judge to argue her side of the case; coordinated expert testimony and prepped experts for trial; maintained counseling and medical records for presentation at hearings.
Attorney time on case: Two years, in excess of 100 hours (should be noted: client ran out of money halfway through and went through approximately three attorneys after working with this firm).