To begin a divorce case in Florida there is a $409.00 filing fee that must be paid to the Clerk of Court.
In addition to the $409.00 filing fee, you will also need to have the Clerk issue a summons, which is an extra $10.00. A summons essentially is the document that explains to the other person that a divorce case has been started and that they have twenty (20) days to file a proper response. The clerk’s office charges $10.00 to issue this summons with their official stamp or seal.
Another cost that is associated with getting a divorce started is the cost of service. Since a divorce action is an actual lawsuit, the person being sued (i.e. your spouse) must be properly notified. This is where the cost of service comes into play. Properly notifying your spouse typically means hiring a process server to go find your spouse in public and personally deliver them. In South Florida process servers typically charge between $40 to $50 to perform this service.
Links to the Court costs in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade can be found at these links.
The number one question from people who are interested in filing for divorce is: How much are the attorney’s fees going to be?
Most of the time the answer to that question is: it depends. The number one factor that influences how much attorney’s fees are in a divorce or family law case is the amount of time it will take to officially close out the case.
There are two main fee structures that you should know about, hourly billing and flat fee billing.
99% of divorce/family law attorneys charge their clients for the work they perform by the hour. This means that the more time the case takes equals the more costly the case will be.
The reason why the majority of divorce/family law attorneys charge by the hour is because family law cases are often unpredictable. In other words, the attorney does not know how long the case will go on for.
Attorney’s hourly rates mainly depend on the experience of the attorney. The more experienced the attorney typically the higher their hourly rate. The average hourly rate in South Florida is between $250-$350 per hour.
Another aspect of hourly rate billing is the concept of a “retainer”. A retainer refers to the amount of money that is paid to the lawyer upfront to cover a certain amount of work.
As the lawyer completes work on the case he or she will take the fee out of the retainer.
For Example: a divorce lawyer may require $3,000 up front as a retainer. If his or her hourly rate is $300 per hour then the $3000 equals 10 hours of attorney time spent only on your case.
There are two types of retainers that you should be aware of: refundable retainers and non-refundable retainers.
As the name suggests a refundable retainer is refundable, meaning that if the attorney collects a retainer that covers 10 hours for his or her time but only works on the case for 8 hours, then you would be entitled to receive the balance of the retainer that was not used by the lawyer.
A non-refundable retainer is the exact opposite of a refundable retainer. Non-refundable retainers mean that the money you give the lawyer is not-refundable. Using the example above, if the lawyer only used 8 out of 10 hours that the client paid, the lawyer the balance is not refundable.
If a lawyer’s retainer is non-refundable then Florida law requires the lawyer to inform the client of that fact and it must be included in the attorney’s fee agreement.
Flat fee billing is less common among divorce and family law attorneys. Flat fee billing is when a lawyer quotes and charges one amount for the entire case.
Again, this type of billing is less common because family law cases are unpredictable. Lawyers never know how long the other spouse will drag the case out for.
In divorce and family law, flat fee billing is more common in cases where all parties are on the same page and in agreement on all of the issues.