In many of my initial legal consultations with new or potential clients, one of the first things I discuss is family finances and divorce costs. 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 between two households, at least for a period of time. So, how can you properly decide if a divorce will be financially feasible?
To start with, I like to give my potential clients a full assessment of the divorce costs associated with a divorce up front, before even discussing the costs related to the financial support of the family. Many times, if you cannot afford the upfront costs of filing for a divorce, then you may reconsider whether it is the right time to file. In most counties in the state of Florida, 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 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 the costs of filing for divorce and clerk services added up, you could be out of up to $500.00 just to initiate the case.
Other divorce costs to consider include legal representation, mediations, possible depositions, and other litigation-related expenses, such as potential expert witness, family counselors, or child psychologists, should the need arise for any of these services.
Attorney’s fees will account for the bulk of the litigation expenses, so it becomes vitally important to find an attorney who will be responsive to your needs and communications. You want to ensure you feel comfortable with the attorney you choose since you will be paying him/her this money.
Frequently, some people will try to navigate divorce waters by themselves to avoid incurring additional divorce costs, and while that certainly can be done, if there are complex issues that require experienced legal representation, 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 will 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. For example, in Florida, if you have a 5 year marriage, with no children, where each spouse is gainfully employed, this situation would be much less expensive to litigate than a case in which the parties have been married for 15 years, only one party is employed, and there are 4 children. The former example could cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,500, for a relatively straight-forward divorce case with no children, while the latter example could exceed $20,000, depending on the amount of finances to be divided between the parties in prepare dividing marital assets, and the legal intricacies involved. You should also keep in mind that if all the issues pertinent to your divorce were not disclosed during your meeting with your attorney and those undisclosed issues suddenly arise during litigation, costs could increase exponentially based on the complexity of those newly introduced issues.
Finally, in addition to considering the costs of divorce litigation before filing and during the case, perhaps even more important would be estimating finance payments concluding the divorce case. These financial obligations include spousal support, child support, and additional costs related to children, such as expenses related to academics, extra-curricular activities, and health and dental needs.
To protect yourself from surprises, all of these divorce costs and expenses should be considered upfront before deciding whether to move forward with a dissolution of marriage action. There will always be financial repercussions involved in a divorce. Identifying the costs that arise before, during, and following a divorce would enable you to make better decisions to plan when it is the best and most appropriate time to file for divorce.
Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS, P.A. who focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.
Reference: Law Office of Mujdah Rahim.