Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law
If you want to hire a divorce lawyer in Jacksonville or another Florida city and your spouse controls the money accounts, then how do you pay for a divorce attorney? Paying attorney fees is a common issue in a Florida divorce because often, during a marriage, the parties separate responsibilities and one spouse may be in charge of the finances while the other may have different responsibilities. When that happens, hiring an attorney can seem challenging for the spouse that does not have direct access to the accounts, especially when they already separated and the other spouse is keeping funds from the joint account.
First, setting up a consultation with a law firm may be challenging if you do not have funds readily available because many divorce lawyers require a consultation fee. The consultation is designed to allow the attorney to meet with you, normally for an hour, to discuss your case and provide you with legal advice and options regarding your specific divorce needs. The consultation fee is generally required because the attorney bills at an hourly rate and you are securing your hour by paying for the lawyer’s time. Also, the consultation allows for the attorney to determine what your divorce may cost and what to charge for an actual retainer. So, if you are not in control of your finances, how can you schedule and pay for a consultation?
Most law firms accept credit card payments, so that is one option. Another option may be to borrow funds from a friend/family member and inform the attorney that you have done so because if the attorney asks for attorney’s fees you may reimburse that money to your friend/family. Also, you could inform the law office of your financial situation and let them know whether you would normally have the funds available but for your spouse’s actions. Then the lawyer can decide whether to waive the initial consultation fee and put the claim in for attorney fees to include the initial consultation.
How do you get attorney fees for the consultation and divorce? Well, once you file for divorce your attorney may file for temporary needs, in order to give you funds to live off between the date of separation and the finalization of your divorce. In addition to asking for financial support for living expenses, child support and the like, the attorney may also request attorney fees and provide documentation to the court about what the fees have been and are expected to be. The court then has to determine whether the other spouse has an ability to pay for the fees and costs associated with your divorce attorney and his/her own divorce attorney.
How does the court determine if the other spouse has an ability to pay? In a Florida divorce, the parties are required to file financial affidavits. Each party has to fill out a document that shows their individual present incomes, living expenses, children expenses, asset values (including bank accounts, retirement funds, vehicles, etc.). In addition, the parties are required to provide bank statements, payroll records (i.e. pay stubs), and other documents that prove or disprove the income and asset information. These items can then assist the judge and attorneys in determining whether a spouse has an ability to contribute to the other spouse’s attorney fees and costs associated with the divorce.
If you are going through a divorce, then you should seek advice from an experienced family law and/or divorce lawyer to better understand your rights and options.
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