Who Pays for the Divorce?
In addition to the emotional challenges of divorce, there is the very concerning issue of how to handle the financial fallout of this decision. Finances play a huge role in people’s lives, and can force couples to stay together for fear of financial collapse. Once the wheels are put in motion to form separate lives, each spouse must figure out how to support him/herself independently, before any court orders are issued regarding alimony or property division. Even the process of divorce itself can cause concern, especially if litigation is necessary to resolve points of dispute. Parties in divorce usually do not want to cut corners on legal representation or pursuing legal action, but such efforts do come with a cost. Further, even if alternative dispute resolutions options are explored, such as mediation, which are less expensive than a traditional divorce, this process has an associated cost as well. While parties are generally expected to cover these expenses on their own, it is possible to ask a court to order the other spouse to pay for legal fees and court costs in certain circumstances. Costs for family law mediations are handled somewhat differently. A discussion of how costs for traditionally litigated divorce cases and divorce mediation can be shifted will follow below.
Couples entering into divorce, especially if children are involved, are becoming more open to the possibility of alternative processes to work out unresolved issues. Mediation in family law and divorce cases is one frequently chosen option due to its brevity, lower cost and control it gives to the parties. Further, ordering divorcing spouses to attempt mediation before formally beginning the legal process of divorce is a standard requirement. Thus, most divorcing couples will have some exposure to mediation. The cost will depend on the provider chosen for this service, but it is generally shared between the parties. If the parties’ combined annual income is $100,000 or less, the cost may be based on Florida statute, which sets a flat rate, though the court can waive the fee if circumstances justify it. Further, a point of negotiation could be who will bear the fees if there is a concern about paying, and a court could order one party to cover any associated costs of mediation if there is an ability to pay.
Recovering Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases
Anytime a court decides a dispute, the costs of seeing the case through to the end quickly multiply. If one party has more financial resources from which to pull, this process can easily become unfair. However, Florida statutes permit a court to order a party to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees or other costs incurred in the divorce case. These awards are authorized to ensure one party does not gain an unfair advantage simply due to having more money. However, a request for attorney fees and costs must be made in the first filing a party makes with court. Requests made a later time are rarely considered. A judge will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant such a request, including:
- the financial resources of both parties, which goes beyond looking at income and additionally explores the assets each party owns;
- the scope and history of the case, especially if a relatively simple dispute turns into a complicated case involving multiple issues;
- whether one party is using court procedure to harass the other party or stall progression of the case; and
- the actual need for the award, usually taken to mean a party would have to use resources allocated for basic expenses in order to pay for legal representation.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Figuring out how to pay for divorce is a source of significant concern for many people, but know there are options to share costs or shift the burden to the spouse with the greater ability to pay. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. has years of experience counseling clients on their rights in a divorce. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+