One of the main concerns couples have when considering divorce is determining how much the divorce will cost. The issue of attorney’s fees is one of the first issues discussed between a Florida divorce attorney and a potential client for a dissolution of marriage or paternity case. When you seek professional legal services it is important to understand how much the lawyer will charge you for the work he will do for you. An agreement between the lawyer and the client should be detailed in a written contract that is signed by you and your lawyer.
What kinds of fees should I expect in a dissolution of marriage or paternity case?
Retainer fees are common when seeking services for marriage dissolution in Florida. A retainer fee is an upfront payment that the client pays the lawyer handling his or her divorce or paternity case. The retainer fee and hourly rate contract is the standard method of payment for family law matters. This means that the client agrees to pay a retainer fee of a specific amount of money, agrees to pay court costs, and is billed at an hourly rate for the services rendered.
How are payments made?
Family law litigation commonly functions on payments of a retainer fee plus hourly costs and court costs. This is usually the case because there is no way of knowing how long it will take to conduct research, depositions, court hearings, trials, and other tasks; as well as it is impossible to know in the beginning of a case how long it will take to resolve the case. For this reason, a monthly bill is sent out to be paid month-to-month.
As an example, the client may pay a retainer fee of $3,500 and be billed at a rate of $350 an hour plus court costs. In regards to the retainer fee of $3,500, the contract may state that the hourly rate of $350 will be billed immediately, or it will be billed only after the $3,500 is depleted. Your family law attorney will work with you to negotiate an agreement for attorney’s fees.
Flat Fee Divorce
Another type of fee arrangement for family law cases is the flat fee contract. In a flat fee arrangement, the client is charged a flat fee plus court costs for the entire case. For example, the client may agree to pay $7,500 plus court costs for the entire dissolution of marriage process or a paternity case, no matter how many court hearings or conference there are, and regardless of how much research must be conducted. This arrangement provides some peace of mind for the client who wants to know exactly what a divorce or paternity case will cost him or her; however, there are risks facing both the lawyer and the client in this type of arrangement.
As far as the lawyer is concerned, the flat rate fee is risky because the case may require many more hours of work than predicted; work that may well be worth more than the $7,500 agreed upon, but the lawyer is locked in to the flat fee amount. For the client, it is possible the case may be resolved quickly, in which case he or she may not need to spend $7,500.
Does my spouse pay my attorney’s fees?
In some cases, the opposing spouse may have to pay the client’s attorney’s fees. Florida Statute 61.16 provides that after the court considers the respective financial resources of both litigants the economically superior litigant may have have to pay some or all of the opposing lawyer’s fees. Most family law lawyers do not take a case on the basis that the only fee arrangement is getting paid from the opposing party.
Sometimes the retainer agreement or the flat fee agreement can be reduced on the basis that the lawyer will try to get attorney’s fees from the opposing party, and if those fees are paid, they
will be retained and kept by the lawyer. Again, it is important that the lawyer-client relationship have a clear written understanding about what the fee arrangements are going to look like.
An experienced family law attorney in Miami is absolutely an investment that should not be taken lightly. The right attorney will work diligently on your marriage dissolution or paternity case for the best possible outcome. With over 50 years of experience practicing family law litigation, Stephen H. Butter is your top source for a Florida divorce attorney. Call (305) 333-7159 today for a free consultation and case analysis.