When a client is seeking services from a divorce attorney, the attorney will often ask the client to pay a retainer fee. A retainer is an advance payment to the attorney to begin the case. The divorce lawyer puts the retainer in a special trust account and deducts cost of services from that account, as the costs accrue in the case.
If the retainer has been depleted during the course of the divorce case, the attorney will ask the client to replenish the retainer. The client will again advance payment to the attorney to “replenish” the funds. In a divorce action, it is difficult to know how the case will unfold. If both parties desire to resolve the case, the retainer will last longer in the trust account. If the divorce case requires litigation, multiple hearings and a lot of paperwork, the retainer is depleted more quickly.
Despite the nature of the case (whether amicable or litigious) a retainer is refundable, if the case is completed and there is money left in the trust account.