West Monroe, LA asked in Divorce for Alabama

Q: Can I be charged for months while court was closed due to coronavirus?

Divorce lawyer said $4,000 retainer fee was more than enough. Court hearings were put on hold for months during coronavirus, yet the lawyer kept racking up the bill somehow and now says I owe $6,000 more. Is this legal? Can the charges rack up even when everything was closed?

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3 Lawyer Answers
Sheila Crumley Field
Sheila Crumley Field
Answered
  • ANNISTON, AL
  • Licensed in Alabama

A: You need to request an itemized bill of charges.

Shane Michael Oncale agrees with this answer

Kristine Jones
Kristine Jones
Answered
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Licensed in Alabama

A: The courts and attornies were never closed or shut down. While hearings may have been delayed awhile, it doesn't mean no work was being done on your case. Sheila gave you a good suggestion and I agree.

Shane Michael Oncale agrees with this answer

Shane Michael Oncale
PREMIUM
Shane Michael Oncale
Answered
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Licensed in Alabama

A: Although the lawyers before you provided excellent responses and advice I feel the need to weigh in on this question as it comes up so often in one form or another. First, read your contract. Your contract should spell out exactly what you are to be charged for and what is free. What you will likely find is that you are billed for EVERYTHING your lawyer does on your case, yes, including talking to you and responding to your inquires. So many clients seem to have the impression, despite the existence of a contract with written terms, that they are only billed when an attorney is actually in court in your case or that they are not billed for conversations or worse yet that they only pay for results. Unfortunately, in many cases, there is substantial work to be done before you ever go to court. The point of hiring a lawyer is for him to do work to prepare your case to go to court. The idea is to not just show up and see what happens. With that being said, unless your case is complex and has some pretty significant issues that need to be addressed and/or your attorney is billing at a very high hourly rate, that seems like a significant amount of money. As has already been suggested you should ask for an itemized bill showing what fees and expenses have been occurred and for what activity. Your attorney is entitled to bill you consistent with his contract for work on your case but you, as a client, are also entitled to an itemized listing of what was done. If you do not agree with his billing practices I would not pay him additional retainer unless some resolution on those practices can be reached and reduced to a writing.

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