Nevada courts may make awards of attorney’s fees “to enable the other party to carry on or defend” a legal action. Over the years, the standard has evolved. In 1971, the Nevada Supreme Court stated that it was important to award fees over and above any support ordered, so that counsel could be paid “without diminishing care for children.” The next year, the Court indicated that “greatly disproportionate wealth” would alone be a basis for an award of fees, with the objective that the requesting party be able to meet the other party in court on an “equal basis.” This is often referred to as the “Sargeant” standard, named for the case in which the idea was published.
In practice, preliminary awards (i.e., fee awards at the beginning of cases) are necessarily dealt with as a matter of need and ability to pay. Fee decisions at the end of a case may have more to do with the conduct of the parties during the case, their actual expenditures for attorney’s fees, experts, and other costs, and the relative income of the parties during the action and expected into the future.
Such awards are almost totally discretionary with the district court judge. Whether and how much will be awarded from one party to another is almost impossible to predict, especially at the beginning of a case, and each litigant should approach the case with a starting belief that he or she will be required to come up with the money to hire counsel, and to pay counsel as the case progresses. Absent a specific, written agreement stating otherwise, each client is entirely responsible for the fees and costs charged by this firm. We send monthly statements to all clients informing them of the status of their accounts.
In reality, legal actions tend to be emotionally-difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. We cannot change that reality. But we can, and will, be totally open in discussing, from the initial interview forward, how much (if any) of the expenses are predictable, and what alternatives (if any) are presented at each phase of the case. Usually, costs, expenses, and fees for legal services incurred tend to substantially exceed the initial retainer fee deposit in any contested case.
Not everyone that wishes to hire this firm can afford to do so. To assist potential clients in making that decision, we have posted our fees, costs, and billing procedures in our Retainer Agreement. It explains – in detail – how our financial arrangements work. It is important to distinguish the hourly rates charged and the total cost of the divorce. While those two things are obviously related, an attorney with a higher hourly rate may be more efficient or knowledgeable and ultimately be less expensive than one who charges less per hour. In addition, properly dealing with complicated issues simply requires the most competent attorney a client can find and afford.
No two cases are alike, and it is not unusual for them to prove to be much more complex than they first appeared, because of misbehavior by the opposing party, unexpected developments, or even just the attitudes (and animosity) of the parties. It is beyond our power to “make the other side be reasonable.” We can only present the alternatives that are actually available, and then follow through on the choice made by the client to the best of our abilities.
In short, it is impossible to predict how long a case will take, how much it will cost, or what the resulting outcome may be, and we don’t (and won’t) make any guarantees about the length or expense of a case, or how it will come out.
In the matter of fees and costs, as with all other issues, WILLICK LAW GROUP does everything possible to obtain a positive result for our clients. We use modern technology, and the most efficient staffing and methodologies available that are consistent with proper representation of our clients. We always seek a judicial order that is fair to our client – including on the issue of fees and costs.
- Introduction to Divorce Law
- Firm Biography
- Family Law and Contingency Fees; Time to Reconsider? (Nevada Lawyer, March, 2007)
- Unpleasant Reality of Money and Trust Account Balances: Our Policies
- Legal Note Vol. 28 — Attorney’s Fees & Burden Shifting
- Legal Note Vol. 30 — Attorney’s Fees: Deferring, & EDCR 5.11