At the end of almost every divorce consultation, a Florida family law attorney is posed with the same question. How much is my divorce going to cost? While this question appears to be straightforward, the unknown factors of divorce make it almost impossible to answer. Your Florida divorce attorney should, however, be able to analyze the issues of each particular case and address the related expenses.
In the State of Florida, there are two primary types of divorce cases, the first of which is an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties have been able to work through all issues even before filing the divorce petition. In this scenario, all that remains is for the parties to complete and file the required pleadings. Due to the limited nature of work involved, the divorce attorney's role is to assist the client rather than advocate a legal position. Thus, the attorney's role in an uncontested divorce is typically limited to the preparation of the pleadings, drafting the applicable marital settlement agreement and parenting plan, and scheduling and attending an uncontested final hearing in order to obtain the final judgment of divorce. Because the attorney's role is limited the expense a party faces is reduced.
The second type of divorce is referred to as a contested case. A contested divorce means the parties are unable to agree or settle all of the issues of their divorce and need the assistance of an attorney to help bring about a final resolution. This final resolution can come in the form of a settlement during the course of the divorce or at a trial. The expenses involved in a contested case derive from the issues the parties are facing, and the time involved in resolving those issues.
Examples of contested, and sometimes expensive, issues include timesharing plans with minor children, support provisions, including child support and alimony, the division of assets, including homes and marital businesses, and a spouse's request for an attorney fees contribution. All of the above case issues can require extensive work not only by an attorney but also an expert who assists the client and attorney in advancing their particular position. With the complexity of each case issue and with each additional contested issue, the cost of the divorce grows.
It is important for each client to discuss and address all possible case issues with their Florida divorce attorney during the initial consult. At that time, the client can be fully aware of what issues they may face and thus can have a better understanding of what expenses lie ahead. One constant will remain: the sooner the parties can settle, the less expensive the divorce will be.