In many of my initial legal consultations with new or potential clients, one of the first things we have to discuss are family finances. Sometimes this can be a difficult conversation to have, as income streams tend to be finite. If, for example, we have a family where the mother earns $75,000 per year and the father stays at home with small children, then upon a divorce occurring, instead of that $75,000 supporting one household, it’s possible that that same income will now have to be, to some extent, spread amongst two households, at least for a period of time. Particularly, this will occur if the marriage is of a longer term and the father has been out of the workforce during the marriage.
To start with, I like to give my clients a full assessment of the costs associated with a divorce up front, before even discussing the issues related to the financial support of the family. Many times, if you cannot afford the up-front costs of filing for a divorce, then you may have your answer as far as if is the right time to file. In most counties in the state of Florida, just filing for a divorce with the Clerk of the Court’s office will cost over $400.00. This cost will fall upon the party who files for the divorce, and unless the other party has substantially more income, it’s unlikely those costs would be recouped. This becomes an important consideration if you believe there is a chance at saving your marriage, since if you dismiss the case or reconcile with your spouse, those fees are not going to be refunded to you.
In addition to the filing fees, in most cases you would also need to pay the Clerk to issue a summons, the legal document that serves notice of a case’s initiation, and you will likely need to utilize the services of a process server in order to have the summons and corresponding legal documents properly delivered to the other side. With all those costs adding up, you could be out up to $500.00 just to initiate the case, and that does not yet involve the costs of legal representation, mediations, possible depositions and other litigation-related expenses, such as costs for potential expert witness or costs associated with family counselors or child psychologists, should that need arise.
It becomes vitally important to find an attorney that will be responsive to your needs and communications, as you will want to ensure you feel comfortable with the attorney with whom you will be paying this money to. Many times people will try to navigate these divorce waters by themselves, and while that certainly can be done, if there are truly important issues that need to be determined, such as those related to potential alimony, child support, parental responsibility and timesharing, then in almost all cases, you will want to retain an attorney to protect your rights, your finances, and most importantly, your children.
So how much money can an attorney cost for a divorce case? Well, the answer to that will largely be determined based upon the extent of the legal issues involved in your particular case. If you have a 5-year marriage, with no children, where each spouse is gainfully employed, then that case, of course, would be much less expensive to litigate than a case in which the parties have been married for 15 years, and only one party is employed and there are 4 children. The former example could cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,500, for a relatively straight-forward divorce case with no children, while the later example could exceed $20,000, depending on the specific finances and legal intricacies involved in your particular case. Therefore, it becomes essential to have a grasp on the legal issues that would need to be determined in your case before and during your initial meeting with an attorney, since if there are undisclosed issues that pop-up during litigation, then the costs could increase exponentially based on the specific issues at hand.
Finally, in addition to considering the costs of divorce litigation before filing and during the case, perhaps even more important would be to try and make determinations as to the finances available to you following the conclusion of a divorce case. There may be additional financial obligations that arise as part of the divorce case, such as spousal support, child support and additional costs related to children, including those expenses related to their academics, extra-curricular activities, and health and dental needs. So all of these costs and expenses should be considered up-front before deciding whether to move forward with a dissolution of marriage action. There are always financial repercussions that will follow a divorce, so the more information you have up front, the better off you will be in making the decision as to when it is the best and most appropriate time to file for divorce.
Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS. P.A. and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law.