Florida Divorce Guide – Attorney’s Fees and Expenses, Appeals and Legal Aid
Attorney’s Fees and Expenses
The fees and costs associated with dissolution of marriage cases vary greatly. The more complex and contentious the issues, the higher the cost of dissolution. Based on the information you provide, your attorney may be able to provide an estimate of the total cost of a dissolution during an initial meeting; however, keep in mind that your attorney has no way of predicting the future and that estimates are just that – estimates. The final cost of your divorce will be determined by a number of uncontrollable variables.
In accordance with the agreement you make, your attorney will expect you to pay a fee as well as the costs of litigation. The court may order your spouse to pay a portion or all of your fees and costs, but such awards are unpredictable and should not be relied on. You are solely responsible for paying your legal fees.
It is illegal for an attorney to work on a contingency fee basis in a divorce case (that is, where the attorney’s fee is based on a percentage of the amount awarded to the client).
If you believe the judge’s decision was incorrect, you may appeal it if certain time-sensitive procedural steps are followed. However, because the trial judge has broad discretion in dissolution of marriage cases, an appellate court does not often reverse the trial judge’s decision. If the trial judge makes a legal error or abuses his or her discretion, the appellate court may overturn the decision. If your only reason for appealing is dissatisfaction with the judge’s decision, your chances of success are slim. You must decide quickly whether to appeal the final judgment because an appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date the order being appealed is filed in the lower tribunal or court, or 30 days of the date an order on a motion to extend the time to appeal is filed.
Where Can I Get Legal Aid?
A good place to start is with your own attorney, who can quickly review your legal rights and advise you on how to proceed. You may be referred to a family law attorney if your attorney does not handle dissolution of marriage cases.
However, if your spouse has retained your preferred attorney, that same attorney cannot also represent you. In fact, if the attorney has previously represented your family, there may be a conflict of interest, which means the attorney cannot represent either of you. Do not attempt to obtain legal advice from your spouse’s attorney. It is unethical for an attorney to represent both parties in a divorce proceeding and to provide legal advice to both spouses.
How to Choose an Attorney
If you do not have an attorney, an attorney referral service, usually run by a local bar association, can connect you with one who handles such cases.
If your city does not have an attorney referral service, The Florida Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service can help you find one. You can reach the statewide service by dialing 800-342-8011.
If you are looking for an attorney to represent you in a divorce or other legal matter, the Florida Bar pamphlet How To Find A Lawyer in Florida may be useful.
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