South Florida Divorce Representation
Statewide Divorce Document Preparation
Divorce Lawyers and Fees
Do I really need a Florida divorce lawyer? In general, people have a lot at stake when they get divorced; financially and emotionally. The laws and rules which are used by Judges and lawyers are sometimes complicated, and it is probably not worth trying to represent yourself. You would need to learn in a short period of time what competent attorneys have spent years learning. Unfortunately, if you don't do well in representing yourself you may lose many times over the money you thought you were saving in attorney fees. You may also find the experience to be quite aggravating. It's the same as trying to repair your own TV or car. You may not do well and you've got a good bit to lose.
Most lawyers charge by the hour for divorce cases. If you are charged a set fee (i.e. as opposed to paying by the hour) there could be problems. If the case requires more work than originally contemplated, the lawyer feels ripped off. (The more complicated the case the more difficult it is for the lawyer to estimate how much time must be put in) If the case settles quickly, the client may feel that the lawyer got too much money for the time that was put in. Sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why lawyers' fees can be so high.
Many lawyers do not do a good job of communicating with their clients about the work that they are doing. A lawyer can be doing a tremendous job, but the client may not realize that because it is not communicated to them. They then feel confused when the bill arrives. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. If you hire the cheapest auto mechanic you may be in for trouble. If you hire a lawyer and are not realistic about what the case is going to cost, the relationship may sour quickly. The best course is to communicate regularly with your attorney to see how things are going and to see what the fees are amounting to. It is also highly recommended that before the lawyer even starts, that you both sign a written fee agreement which you clearly understand.
You are asking the lawyer to get involved in one of the most important things you will ever face. No lawyer can give you $10,000 worth of legal services for $1,900.00. The benefit of an experienced attorney, although possibly more expensive, is that they do not have to spend time learning things as they go along, as an inexperienced attorney might. That can be very important given the hefty hourly fees that many lawyers charge today.
Be up front with the lawyer about approximately how much you can afford. If a client has the ability to pay all reasonably incurred fees, the lawyer can be a lot more thorough in handling the case. If money is a real issue, they can allocate resources accordingly, but they need to know in the beginning what the situation is. It is not a question of the lawyer doing a bad job for the lesser amount, it is a question of choosing areas to concentrate on, given a limited budget. A reputable lawyer will appreciate honesty in terms of what your budget is.
The last thing that you want is the lawyer withdrawing from your case because their bill is unpaid. It is disruptive to your case and another lawyer will charge you just to get up to speed on matters. If you do not understand what is happening with your bill or the case, call, send questions in writing, or make an appointment to sit down with the attorney and straighten things out. When a lawyer sends a bill, you should also insist on a time sheet where each portion of work is listed with the time spent. You also need to clarify with the attorney what their policy is about phone calls. If you call and talk for four minutes, does the lawyer have a minimum charge? Some lawyers bill for no less than one-tenth of an hour which is six (6) minutes; and at $300.00 an hour that is $30.00!!
Feel free to ask your lawyer questions, but understand if you want to call and chit-chat, that you may well be "on the clock." The lesson here is to have a good working relationship with your attorney, but get to the point in your communications, for the sake of your pocket book if nothing else. Also, if you present everything to the lawyer on an emergency basis, and insist on immediate action on everything, the bill may be adjusted accordingly. Most Judges in Florida are overwhelmed with cases and the Court system works very slowly, even with a dilligent lawyer.