Divorce is one of the most difficult things a person can go through in life. Not only is a significant relationship ending, but important financial and child-related decisions have to be made that can affect a person's life, and their children's lives, for years to come.
Making these decisions with someone you trust and care about is hard enough. But trying to make these decisions with someone you may not trust — or maybe even can't stand — is even tougher. That's where attorneys, judges, and courts come in. That's also where divorce cost comes in.
Cost of Divorce in Florida
The average cost of divorce in Florida is $13,500 without children or $20,300 with children, according to USA Today. However, the actual cost of a divorce in Florida can vary by tens of thousands of dollars based on the type of issues involved in the case and how those issues are resolved.
A Florida divorce can cost as little as several hundred dollars or as much as over $100,000 in legal fees, depending on issues such as:
- Contested Issues:
- How many issues the parties disagree on can certainly affect the divorce costs. The more "contested" issues a case has — such as division of property, child custody, child support, or alimony — the more time it takes to sort them out, and the more likely the case is to need expensive court intervention.
- A dissolution of marriage without assets such as real estate or retirement accounts is going to be much simpler, and less expensive to sort out, than a divorce with significant assets. For that reason, parties with a high net worth can expect their divorce to cost more, especially if there are disputes over the assets or alimony.
- Whether there are minor children involved tends to drive up the cost of divorce, especially if parents do not agree on child custody or visitation. Child support can also be an expensive issue to resolve, especially if one party's income is difficult to determine because of self-employment or bonuses.
- How willing both parties are to cooperate directly affects the divorce cost. If one party insists on dragging their feet or refusing to give in just for the sake of arguing, then the divorce is more likely to get expensive and likely require the court's involvement.
- Attorney's Approach:
- Unfortunately, some lawyers tend to drive up the cost of divorce by being more prone to litigation, or court involvement. This approach may be okay or even preferred by some parties, but it's important to keep in mind that some divorce lawyers are more conscious of costs than others and attorney fees are a huge driver of divorce costs.
- When one party is simply not ready or willing to end the marriage, it can cause the divorce to get more expensive, especially if the party becomes uncooperative. When both parties are ready and willing to end the marriage, it usually takes less time and expense.
How Much Are Divorce Filing Fees in Florida?
Every county court in Florida requires people filing for a dissolution of marriage to pay a filing fee. This is essentially the fee you pay to have your divorce processed, or recorded, by the court, which makes it legal.
The filing fees in Florida vary from $350 to $410 depending on the county. Check the county clerk's website in the county you plan to file in to see what the exact fee will be. There could also be additional fees for copies and to have the other party served with the divorce papers.
If you are worried about being able to afford the filing fee and other related court fees, you can complete what is called an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status. You can get the form online or from your county Clerk of the Court. A $25 administrative fee will still apply, and you might be put on a payment plan instead of having fees waived in full.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in Florida?
Divorce lawyers in Florida typically charge between $260 and $330 per hour, depending on their experience and where they are located. Divorce attorneys in larger cities tend to charge more than out-state attorneys.
Family law attorneys usually charge by the hour for divorce cases, and they often ask for a large retainer upfront to draw from as they complete the work. The retainer is usually between $2,000 and $5,000. Usually, more than one retainer is needed for a contested divorce or a divorce with multiple issues that need to be figured out.
If the case goes to trial, you can expect to pay an even larger retainer for the trial preparation and court appearance. Any funds that are not earned from the retainer are returned to you, the client. Before the lawyer has earned and billed for their time, the retainer funds are held in a trust account that is separate from the firm's regular bank account.
Lawyers are required to keep client funds separate from their own funds by the Florida Bar.
Although most divorce lawyers bill by the hour, there are a growing number of lawyers who are offering flat-fee services for handling uncontested divorces or just certain parts of a client's case, which can help save on divorce attorney fees.
In providing unbundled legal services, also known as limited-scope representation, the lawyer and client decide which aspects of the case the lawyer is going to help with, such as drafting a divorce settlement agreement, reviewing a divorce agreement, or attending a divorce hearing, and which aspects of the case the client will handle on their own. This is a way to save money while still getting a lawyer's help.
Can I File for Divorce in Florida Without a Lawyer?
Yes, you may file for dissolution of marriage without any help from a lawyer. In fact, this is the route that many Florida residents choose to take.
However, it's usually not smart to go through divorce without getting legal advice and here is why: Unless you have very little or no property, no children, and no concern about supporting yourself financially in the future, there is a risk that you could end up making a costly mistake.
At the very least, it is recommended that you meet with a divorce lawyer who can help spot issues that could result in a costly mistake. If you have already reached a divorce agreement, it is also a good idea to have an attorney review the settlement agreement for issues that could cause problems or could result in you getting less than your martial share.
How Long Will a Divorce Take in Florida?
A divorce in Florida can take just a few months or a couple of years to complete, depending on how many contested issues there are. On average, a divorce that is uncontested takes about three months, while a divorce that is contested takes about 12 months to complete.
There is a 20-day waiting period before a divorce can be completed in Florida. The final hearing cannot be scheduled until at least 20 days have passed since the petition for dissolution of marriage was filed.
Contact a Florida Divorce Lawyer for More Information
The only way to know how much your divorce will cost is to meet with a divorce lawyer who can look at your situation and provide you with their best estimate. Even then, there are factors that the lawyer will not be able to predict in a lot of cases, such as a complex asset or the other party deciding to contest issues that you thought they agreed to.
However, meeting with a local divorce lawyer who has been through the process many times can help you understand what to expect and how you can potentially save money during the divorce process.