In part 1, we discussed finding the right family lawyer and how long a divorce can take in Florida. Today, we will address some other common questions Floridians have when they start the divorce process.
Part 1 is available here.
How much will divorce cost in legal fees and costs?
The final cost varies widely among clients and depends on many things. You should understand expectations for payment terms, such as due dates, down payments and regular payments throughout the divorce proceedings.
Of course, this is a preliminary matter you should discuss with any potential attorney. Have a detailed and honest talk about it. Do not sign a retainer (usually requiring a down payment) or fee agreement until the lawyer answers all your questions and you are comfortable with the arrangement. Rates normally vary among the attorneys depending on credentials and experience, and sometimes paralegals or legal assistants handle some matters under supervision, which may be at a lower rate. Find out what happens if something unexpected comes up that takes the lawyer more time than expected.
What are my rights?
When you retain an attorney, you have the right to confidentiality and loyalty. You also have the right to control the procedural and strategic decisions made throughout your legal process after your counsel explains the pros and cons. Your lawyer must adhere to the expected standard of due care in your divorce. This means they have the training, knowledge and skill to handle court processes on time, give you sound advice and correct information, conduct adequate investigation and preparation, draft or review legal documents, create a legal strategy toward your goals, conduct court proceedings appropriately and manage other, similar matters.
Do I get half of the money and property?
You may be able to negotiate the terms of property division. Otherwise, the court must divide the property (and debt) between the parties. The law governing property division in Florida requires “equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities.” This is more in the spirit of fairness than of exact division, although the statute says the judge will give each spouse their separate property, and then distribute the marital property and debt. The court must “begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors …”
We will continue to address a client’s important questions about divorce and legal representation.