Do I Need a Lawyer for My Divorce?

About 50% of first marriages end in divorce.  The marriage failure rate goes up with each succeeding marriage.  Since the great majority of us get married at some point, many of us will be getting divorced.  Frequently the process gives people a first-time personal exposure to our legal system.  Hiring a lawyer can be expensive.  Hourly rates vary from “free” for a qualified legal aid case, to $50.00 per hour for (low) income-qualified candidates that obtain a referral from the Broward County Bar Association (or similar agencies) to $500.00 per hour and up for an experienced family law/divorce attorney.  Prevailing rates in Broward County generally fall between $175.00 – $450.00 per hour with initial retainers often paid from $2,500.00 to $15,000.00 and up.

There is no requirement that divorce litigants hire an attorney.  In fact, a large number of cases are pending at any given time in South Florida where one or both sides of a divorce action are not represented by counsel.  Nonetheless, people may wonder whether they should hire an attorney.  Why should they, if attorney(s) are not required and they can be very expensive?  There are many reasons to hire or not to hire an attorney for your divorce.  Because the financial stakes may be high and the outcome most times not reversible, it is not a decision to be made lightly.

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First, look at your options:

  • Pro se` – represent yourself;
  • Hire a mediator only;
  • One side pro se, the other side hires a lawyer;
  • Hire a paralegal/document preparer;
  • Both sides hire attorneys;

What are the considerations?

  • Money – always rules the day;
  • Complexity of case;
  • Issues:
    • Parenting/custody issues
    • Equitable distribution of assets and liabilities
    • Alimony
    • Child Support
    • Attorneys fees
  • What is the law?
    • Don’t give away what you don’t have to!
    • Get what you are entitled to!
    • Think before you ink!!
    • Once an agreement is signed, you are bound by it!
  • Who is in charge of the children?
  • Will one side get bullied by the other side?
  • Does one side have family money?
  • Can you afford an attorney?

A prudent choice for many is to consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your divorce.  Most family law attorneys will be happy to meet for a one-hour paid office divorce consultation.  By so doing, those contemplating divorce can make an informed decision about whether either or both parties should hire counsel, consult a mediator or proceed pro se` without legal representation.

Daniel F. Tordella, Esquire is a family law attorney who has practiced law in South Florida for 25 years.  He limits his practice to Family Law litigation and mediation.  He has been a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator since 2012.

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