HOW MUCH DOES A FAMILY LAWYER COST?
Attorney Antonio Jimenez understands that the prospect of paying high legal fees causes a great deal of anxiety for people facing a Florida divorce, custody, or other family law matters. Here are some of the most common questions clients of Jimenez Legal ask, and the answers.
HOW MUCH ARE THE LEGAL FEES FOR MY DIVORCE OR FAMILY LAW CASE?
The amount of fees paid in a Florida family law matter vary from case to case, depending primarily on the complexity of the case and how much time an attorney must devote to the case to give the client the best possible outcome. Attorney Antonio Jimenez offers clients in the Miami area both competitive hourly rates and a level of family law experience that allows him to work efficiently and achieve excellent results.
CAN I GET MY SPOUSE TO PAY MY LEGAL FEES?
Possibly. The Florida Statutes provide that one party in a divorce may be ordered to pay reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred by the other under certain circumstances. The goal of the law is for both spouses to be able to have an equal chance to be represented by an attorney in their family law case.
In deciding whether to award attorney fees, the court will look at the financial resources of both parties. If one party is refusing to follow a court order without justification, and the other party asks the court to enforce the order, the party that is not complying cannot get an award of attorney fees for the enforcement action.
It is important to ask for attorney fees in the initial document you file with the court (your petition, counter-petition, or answer). If you do not request attorney fees in your initial filing, you most likely will not be able to get an award of fees if you ask for it later.
WHAT ARE REASONABLE ATTORNEY FEES IN A FLORIDA DIVORCE?
Florida courts will only award reasonable attorney fees and costs in a divorce. How do they determine what is “reasonable?” The court will examine a variety of factors, including:
- The length of the divorce proceedings,
- The scope of the divorce matter;
- The history of the case;
- The merits of each party’s positions;
- Each party’s financial resources;
- Whether there is actual need;
- The legal fees typically charged in that area for a similar case by an attorney with similar experience.
The court will also consider whether the actions of the attorney were reasonable, or whether he or she deliberately dragged out the case or filed unnecessary or frivolous motions that increased their fee.
WHAT IF MY SPOUSE’S ATTORNEY DRAGGED OUT OUR DIVORCE CASE?
Ethical attorneys will not do this, but unfortunately, some parties and their attorneys will file frivolous claims or motions to drag out a case and wear the other party down, causing them to incur more legal fees and generally making their life difficult so that they will do anything just to end the case. Some parties will also repeatedly refuse to comply with court orders, forcing the other party to go back to court just to get what they are entitled to.
Actions like this are sometimes called “vexatious litigation.” If a judge determines that one party is engaging in vexatious litigation, they may award the other party their attorney fees, even if there is not a financial need. This is intended to punish the party who is behaving badly as well as to compensate the wronged party for unnecessary expenses they incurred as a result.
WILL I HAVE TO PAY MY SPOUSE’S DIVORCE ATTORNEY’S FEES IF I DON’T SETTLE?
Florida courts do not punish parties just for rejecting a settlement offer and exercising their right to a trial in a divorce case. However, if the court finds that one party behaved unreasonably in refusing to accept a reasonable settlement, and the case was prolonged as a result, the other party may be awarded fees. If the party who dragged the case out unnecessarily was entitled to their attorney fees, the court may reduce the amount of fees they are entitled to, so that they bear responsibility for fees incurred after the case should have ended.
DO I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE END OF MY DIVORCE OR FAMILY LAW CASE TO GET ATTORNEY’S FEES?
Divorce cases can be expensive. Your budget may not be able to bear the additional strain of covering your legal fees until the end of your case. And Florida courts have said that it’s not fair for attorneys to provide services that they should be paid for throughout a case, without a hope of getting paid until it’s all over. As you can imagine, many attorneys would hesitate to take on clients who needed help, but did not have much money.
In order to avoid all of these problems, Florida divorce courts have discretion to award temporary attorney fees, based on one party’s financial need and the other’s ability to pay. If you have further questions about attorney fees in a Florida divorce case, contact Miami family law attorney Antonio Jimenez for answers.
Contact me today to discuss your particular situation and to schedule a one-hour in-depth office consultation. I will work with you to ensure that hiring a family law attorney in Miami does not add to your stress.