How Much Does A Divorce Cost in Florida?
What is the Average Cost for Divorce and Family Attorneys?
There comes a time in the lives of many people when they will have to consider calling a divorce attorney in Orlando, FL and for most people, the part they are most afraid of is the thought of how much does a divorce cost in Florida. This does not have to be as scary as most people make it out to be.
These days there are several ways that different law firms conduct their billing of retainers.
- Flat Fee Retainer: This is a setup where the attorney promises you that for some amount of money, he will be on the case until a set point regardless of the time commitment needed to get to that point. Most of the time in family law it is from the start to the end of mediation and then from mediation through trial. This type of billing can work very well for the attorney as the flat fee is usually non-refundable meaning that if the case settles early or for whatever reason the case does not move forward, the lawyer will likely try to refuse any sort of refund.
- Non-refundable retainer: This is the most popular fee type in Florida family and divorce law. Here the client pays an amount of money, usually between $2,500 to $5,500, which is not refundable. The attorney keeps track of his time devoted to the case and if the amount of work exceeds the retainer amount then an additional non-refundable retainer will be required.
The main problem with this fee structure is that even though the client makes payments less frequently, those payments are much larger and often need to be paid with very little warning to the client. Many lawyers are great in court, but, are terrible at getting client bills out to clients each and every month which often causes a client to believe that they have plenty of funds remaining in their accounts only to be blindsided with a bill showing that their funds have been exhausted and another large non-refundable is needed right away. The final issue with this fee structure is the fact that these fees are usually non-refundable and if the case settles early or the client fires the lawyer for not doing a good job they will have a very hard time getting any of their money back from the law firm.
- Positive Trust Balance: (this is the fee structure that my firm uses) This is a fee structure that asks clients to make a smaller refundable deposit into the firm’s trust/escrow account where the funds still belong to the client until they are earned by the law firm a bit at a time. This ensures that the lawyer only keeps funds that they have actually done work to earn. The average deposit amount that clients are asked to maintain as a refundable deposit by our firm is $1,500.00, however, this amount goes up if the case is more complex or contested.
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How Much Does A Divorce Cost in Florida
The average cost of a divorce in Floirda depends. The average cost to retain a divorce attorney in Orlando, FL to litigate a divorce or child custody case can vary so widely that it is difficult for most human brains to comprehend.
According to a 2006 Forbes article, the average cost of divorce was between $15,000 and $30,000. This is enough to send most people running to marriage counseling. However, if you can understand why this average is so high you can discover how to beat the average and save a substantial amount in legal fees.
There are attorneys who charge no less than $15,000 upfront just to get started on the case, while at the same time, there are attorneys who will charge $3000 which will carry the case just as far as the $15,000 would take the client of the more expensive firm.
Does that mean that you get what you pay for? Well… not always. Typically, attorneys who charge those large initial retainers got to the point of being able to charge that fee because they’ve been in practice for many years, have gained a lot of name recognition, and picked up a lot of skill and experience along the way to justify those fees.
Most of the time you can expect consistent quality from attorneys who have been in practice for many years, have well-managed firms, and charge high rates. The only drawback is the obvious fact that very few people can actually afford those types of fees.
On the other hand, there are plenty of attorneys to choose from at different levels of experience whose fees are going to fall somewhere in the middle of the range. These law firms are usually more within reach to most of us “regular folk”. Although this access to representation is a good thing, it does create a much larger chance that you will retain an attorney who lacks sufficient experience or organization to get the job done at the quality you desire.
How Much Does a Family Lawyer Cost
The cost of hiring a family lawyer can vary significantly depending on several factors. In any local market, there may be two attorneys who charge a $ 3,000 retainer to carry a fairly simple custody case to mediation. The first, we will call him “J” is a highly skilled litigator who pays attention to detail and gets great results for his clients. The second one, we will refer to him as “E”, charges the same fee and is known for submitting subpar pleadings, misses hearings, has lots of negative reviews online, and even has state bar discipline on his record that is easily viewable online by the public.
This is a perfect example of the danger that people face when trying to hire an attorney who charges a more reasonable rate. It is very difficult to know what you are going to get. The simple fact is that the more you pay for your attorney, the lower the chances are that you will end up disappointed with the services they provide. Conversely, the less you pay for an attorney, the higher your chances of ending up disappointed with the services they provide.
It is likely that if you can afford to spend $15,000 on a retainer you can expect to have phone calls returned promptly, emails responded to quickly, and for the law firm to file as many motions and set up as many hearings without hesitation as needed to satisfy your every desire in the case.
However, because family law attorneys bill their rates according to the amount of time invested in the case, lower-income clients may find that the motions and hearings may be limited in number based on what the client is able to pay the lawyer to prepare for.
Does this mean that if I cannot afford the $15,000 retainer I am doomed to poor representation? This answer is no! The truth is that in most cases there is no need for a high number of hearings and costly litigation. If you have an attorney who has a mind toward strategically working your case toward a settlement that you are happy with then you can substantially reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
If you are blessed enough for the other party to also have hired such an attorney as well then you will have great chances of settling your case outside of court and saving yourselves a ton of money.
The number one factor that affects how much you will pay for your case is not what you think it is.
Believe it or not, the biggest factor that will determine how much your case will cost is not the size of the retainer fee your attorney will charge. The number one factor is whether or not the parties can set aside their emotional hurts and work cooperatively together toward a settlement.
I have seen a great many cases that should have settled and cost the parties peanuts that became a fight that cost them tens of thousands of dollars for the simple fact that they let their emotions dictate their handling of the case.
The sad fact of the matter is that in family law if parties intend to use lawyers as weapons to strike at the other side then the case will be extremely expensive regardless of how much the initial retainer costs you.
Attorneys are much better used as legal guides, and trusted advisors, and only as a last resort should they be used as courtroom advocates. Most family law attorneys are not only skilled at going to court but they are also pretty good at facilitating favorable settlement for their clients. Sadly, this skill that lawyers possess is typically underutilized.
Is Any Attorney Billing Practice Better Than The Others?
In the end, the thing to remember is that the law firm is a business and will make sure they are paid for the work they do. No one billing setup is better than the others since either way the client will have to come up with some funds.
It is no secret that some family law and divorce attorneys are more expensive than others. This can be for several different reasons; high overhead, board certification, extensive experience, etc. Normally there will be a range in price for family attorneys from very low to very high. Usually, the best choice is the firm that is right in the middle. That being said most people can expect to pay between $2500 and $5500 for most cases from the start through the end of mediation. Of course, this is heavily dependent on the particular facts of the case. If the case does not settle at mediation then be ready to pay an additional retainer for trial prep. If your attorney is willing to offer you a refundable fee arrangement that will guarantee a refund of any funds that are not used in your case then that is even better.
Remember, no two family cases are the same and there is no way to say what your case will cost until you sit down with a family law attorney and discuss your case in detail. Ultimately, the cost of hiring a family lawyer can vary widely, so it’s crucial to consult with several attorneys to find one whose services align with your needs and budget.
The Florida Bar has additional information concerning lawyer billing available online for additional information.
Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. Today
If you have any questions or concerns about family lawyer costs, family law, or divorce issues, or would like to discuss your specific legal needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Sean Smallwood, P.A.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.