A complete consultation is required to provide an exact quote on a retainer and estimate on total fees, because divorce costs are dependent on your unique facts and goals. Before going down the path of a do-it-yourself divorce – take advantage of our free legal advice in this guide and understand what the cost might be for you and your spouse.
What Does a Divorce Attorney Cost?
Most divorce attorneys in Florida bill hourly for their work. The hourly rate for divorce lawyers is anywhere between $175 and $500 per hour – the average cost being around $300. The rate rises with experience, so junior associates will have a lower rate and experienced attorneys will have a higher rate. Divorce attorneys take a retainer upon accepting a case. The retainer represents “unearned” funds, which are deposited in a trust account that the law firm can draw from as work is done on the case or expenses are incurred. Divorce retainers are contingent on the number of issues and relative complexity of the case. If you can reach a divorce separation agreement quickly, the cost is usually less for all parties.
Calculate Your Divorce Attorney Fees
In other words, we need to sit down and figure out what you need in your divorce case so that we can come up with a quote before you serve divorce papers. As such, a short-term marriage with no children will have a retainer that is quite a bit less than a long-term marriage with children.
Consultation: We charge a flat legal fee of $250 for an initial in-office consultation. We are exhaustive in this consultation, which lasts between 45 and 90 minutes. When applicable, we will work through rough equitable distribution charts, net income analysis, and child support numbers.
Uncontested Divorce: An uncontested divorce is one where all of the issues are resolved, or will be resolved informally by the parties, prior to a filing for dissolution of marriage. Not including divorce filing fees, an uncontested divorce fee is between $2,000 and $4,000.
Contested Divorce: The retainer cost for a contested divorce depends on the number of issues to resolve. In essence, we estimate the cost of your case to get to divorce mediation, where more than 60% of divorce cases are resolved. A contested divorce retainer will vary between $2,500 and $7,500. It is imperative to set a consultation with a divorce attorney to get a retainer quote and an estimate for the divorce.
Do I Need to Pay For the Entire Divorce Upfront?
No. You will pay an initial retainer that anticipates an estimated cost to get your divorce case through the initial stages of divorce, into formal settlement discussion, and up to or including mediation.
If your case cannot get resolved at this stage, you may need to pay a second retainer for the divorce mediation phase.
This is a segment of your case with the goal of utilizing third- party mediators to try to broker a deal.
After the divorce mediator, a third segment in your case is temporary relief phase. Sometimes we need litigation to resolve stopgap issues while waiting for a trial. The unintended benefit of the temp relief phase is that sometimes the threat of litigation looming facilitates an unreasonable party to become reasonable and work on a resolution.
A fourth and final segment is the trial litigation phase. When a case is set for trial, you and your divorce attorney will discuss a final trial retainer. This is dependent on how many issues are left to be litigated.
Many times, the real sticking point is only one issue (for example, alimony), and we can work out resolutions on all the other issues. In this case, the trial retainer would be substantially smaller than a retainer where all issues were unresolved, because the amount of work needed to bring the case to fruition would be substantially less.
The stages of a contested divorce include:
Approximately 60 percent of cases are resolved in the first two stages.
I made all of the money during the marriage. Does that mean I will pay for her attorneys’ fees?
Yes, if you made all of the money during the marriage and you have “discretionary income” on a monthly basis, there is the prospect of you having to pay legal fees not only for your attorney but your wife as well.
A long time ago, Florida had a problem where the breadwinner would freeze the needy spouse’s access to cash, hire the best attorney, and beat the needy spouse into submission.
Florida wants the divorce process to be fair. To ensure that both parties have equal access to representation, Florida gives the needy spouse the opportunity to request that some or all of his or her attorneys’ fees be paid by the breadwinner spouse.
This comes down to a matter of scale. If you were the breadwinner, but your yearly income hinders your ability to pay the bills and provide child support, it would not make sense for the court to order you pay fees.
If however, you make $200K and your spouse is a stay-at-home mom, then you and your family law attorney will need to factor in the probability of fee exposure into the game planning of the case.
At the end of the day, divorce is about finances. And the settlement value of what is a “good deal” slides with exposure to fees.
Your attorney’s job is to put you in the best possible financial footing at the end of the day.
Naturally, your attorney needs to not only analyze assets, debts, and support exposure, but also attorneys’ fees exposure as well. In the realms of petition for dissolution of marriage, it wouldn’t make sense for you to extend an additional $5,000 to $10,000 worth of attorneys’ legal fees in order to gain an additional $5,000 to $10,000 worth of assets.
In that case, it is better to pay the spouse.
However, especially in spousal support cases with long-term marriages, the value of alimony can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more.
Can I Get My Spouse To Pay My Initial Retainer?
As a practical matter, no, it is going to take your divorce lawyer time to get into court to request fees.
As a result, even when there is a very very good chance that your spouse is going to be ordered to pay your legal fees at the end of the day, your divorce attorney will still need you to come up with a retainer at the beginning of the case in order to do legal representation. However, the best course is to talk your options over with your Florida family lawyer, who might be able to help you find creative solutions to afford quality representation.
In some cases, the opposing attorney will discuss with his or her client paying your fees up front to save on costs for both parties on the back end.
How Does The Judge Decide What, if Any, Fees My Spouse Will Pay for Me?
The primary consideration in a request for attorneys’ fees is the need of the requesting spouse, and the requested spouse’s ability to pay.
The judge will also look to see what discretionary income the spouses may or may not have, any assets that are available to the spouses to pay attorneys fees and if there is a great disparity between the net income amounts of both parties.
Not sure what to do next? You can contact us or check out our divorce process guide.