Law Office of Mei Nakamoto
Hawaii Divorce And Family Law Attorneys

General Description Of Fees And Costs

Many people in Hawaii worry about the expense of hiring a divorce attorney. However, it is important that you have a qualified divorce lawyer to help you through the divorce process. A family lawyer can ensure that your needs are met even if you and your spouse are separating under amicable circumstances.

Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, it must proceed through the courts, and having a qualified divorce lawyer on your side can greatly mitigate the stress of the process.

Fees

The fees charged by the attorneys at the Law Office of Mei Nakamoto are based on an hourly rate and are calculated by the tenth of an hour.

The rate for work done by Mei Nakamoto ranges from $325 to $375 an hour; the rate for associate attorney Shelby N. Ferrer ranges from $185 to $250 an hour; the rate for legal assistant work (e.g., gathering information from the client, fielding questions from the client, inputting data, preparing exhibits for hearings and trials, and organizing documents) ranges from $95 to $120 an hour.

The actual rate for a client's case will depend on the complexity of the case and the nature of the work. For example, the highest rate usually is charged for cases with complex legal issues, emotionally charged disputes that require swift and constant management, or urgent cases that require immediate attention.

Costs

Our clients pay costs in addition to fees. Costs are expenses incurred by the law firm, including postage, photocopying charges, messenger fees, fees to serve someone with a summons or subpoena, the court's filing fees and computer-assisted legal research.

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How To Pay Fees And Costs

Fees and costs can be paid in two ways.

First, you pay a retainer, which is a down payment for future fees and costs. Generally, the initial retainer is usually between $5,000 and $8,000. The retainer amount must be paid in full before any work is started on a case. All retainers are kept in a client trust account and remain the client's money until work is done for the client.

Each month during which work is done, the law firm takes from the client trust account only the money that is earned for that month, and the remaining amount remains in the client trust account and continues to be owned by the client.

At the end of the month, the client receives an invoice that details what work was done, calculates the charges for fees and costs, adds 4.712 percent general excise tax on the fees, and subtracts the total from the retainer already paid. If the retainer satisfies the total amount, no payment is due that month. If the retainer amount is exhausted or almost depleted, the firm will ask the client to replenish the client trust account to pay for future fees and costs. If we complete our work that month but an amount remains in the client trust account, the remaining amount is returned to the client.

The second way a client pays for fees and costs is by paying the amount due if the retainer is exhausted but it did not pay for the entire amount of the invoice. Once the retainer is exhausted, the client will be notified and asked to pay the balance due within 15 days.

How Much Various Cases Might Cost

It is impossible to accurately predict the cost of a particular case. The more complex a particular case is, the more expensive it will be. Our clients often pay between $5,000 and $30,000 for a divorce case, and between $5,000 to over $15,000 to resolve a dispute that arises after the divorce (e.g., changing child custody, moving the children from Hawaii).

We may also ask clients to pay for all or part of other professionals' fees. In some cases, it is advisable to obtain the services of a child custody evaluator, a professional mediator, an appraiser and/or a forensic accountant or other expert. Therefore, the total amount a client may spend on a divorce may exceed $30,000 or even $50,000.

Before retaining a divorce attorney, it is important to shop around and ask attorneys about their fees and costs. No rules or laws specify how much an attorney can charge a client. We want our clients to have some control over their finances. When the retainer is exhausted or almost exhausted, the client can cease payment (at which time there is a request to terminate the attorney-client relationship) or pay the next retainer amount. With other law firms, you may be required to provide a credit card which will automatically be charged when funds are depleted.

A high price does not guarantee high-quality results; however, paying a very low amount usually gets a client not much more than what he or she can do without an attorney by using forms downloaded from the Internet. A good attorney should be providing information and advice that cannot be obtained by simply researching on the Internet or asking friends and family, anticipating problems before they arise, preparing papers with sufficient specificity, and informing the client of every major step in the divorce process. Less expensive attorneys typically fail to provide these crucial services.

Why You Should Hire An Attorney

Despite the high cost, it is likely in your best interest to hire an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer. The laws of child custody, visitation rights, child support, spousal support, allocation of debts, and the division of assets and property are complex legal issues. The attorney you choose to hire will have a great impact on the outcome of your case.

A knowledgeable attorney can give you a great advantage, as well as serve as a buffer from the emotional turmoil that usually accompanies a divorce or breakup. Choose an attorney who not only says she or he is knowledgeable and cares about what you are going through, but shows it by providing useful information about the law, recommending practical solutions, returning your calls and emails within a reasonable time, and keeping you informed about your case on a timely basis. At the Law Office of Mei Nakamoto, we are committed to upholding these ideals for all of our clients.

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