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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Contingent Fee Contract


Term Definition Contingent Fee Contract - a contract by which a lawyer serves on a contingent basis.
Application in Divorce A contingent fee contract, whereby a lawyer represents a client for a percentage of the amount recovered, can become very problematic when the lawyer himself or herself is involved in a divorce.

Busy lawyers frequently have many contingent fee contracts pending at any one time, and the amounts involved can become quite large. Courts disagree about the classifying, valuing and distribution of these fees. Some courts maintain that the contingent fee agreements are valuable marital property that should divided to the extent that it was earned during the marriage, and other courts contend that it is not distributable because it may or may not be paid in the future.

Courts generally agree that it is difficult to put a present value on contingent fee contracts, and some reserve jurisdiction by awaiting the outcome of the underlying actions to determine what portion of the fee is attributable to marital efforts.

Moreover, discovery by the other spouse means that it be done "under a strict protective order" that insures that "no confidential information" about the pending action is inadvertently released.

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