Frequently asked questions
1. What is a divorce?
A divorce is the final legal ending of a marriage by court order. The person who files the initial divorce Petition is referred to as the petitioner, and the other spouse is referred to as the respondent.
2. Do I need a divorce attorney?
You should meet with a lawyer even if you think your divorce will be uncontested because divorce law can be complicated. There are several issues that can come up during a divorce. If you have children, then a parenting plan and timesharing (custody) schedule will need to be agreed to or determined by the court. Financial issues, tax issues, alimony and child support also need to be addressed in a divorce case and therefore it can become very complicated.
3. How long have you practiced divorce law and how many divorces have you handled?
Getting a divorce is stressful enough. You want to hire an experienced lawyer. Ask the lawyer how long they have practiced in divorce law and how many cases they have handled. Further, find out how many of the cases led to a trial to determine the lawyer’s courtroom experience. A lawyer with several years’ experience in divorce and marital law will be familiar with the law in this area and have experience litigating in front of the various judges.
4. How many cases are you able to settle out of court and do you practice collaborative law?
Ideally you want to keep your case out of divorce court. You want to know how many of the attorney’s cases settle out of court. Settling out of court is essentially reaching a compromise. You want to know what the lawyer’s preference is on whether to mediate and negotiate than to go to court.
5. What is custody and child support?
Custody is a parent’s legal right to control their child’s upbringing. It will also be referred to as a parenting plan and/or timesharing. Both parents have a legal right to ask for timesharing in a divorce proceeding. Both parents will have to complete a parenting plan which lists out their preferred timesharing schedule.
Child support is the money that one parent pays the other parent for support for the child or children. Child support is based on a number of factors including the income of the parties, the timesharing schedule, and any medical, dental and visitation costs per month as well as daycare and afterschool care costs. The child support calculation is a formula based on these factors. The attorney that you choose should be able to provide you with an understanding of how the child support is calculated.
6. Do you have experience negotiating division of property?
In Florida, the law provides that assets and liabilities that are marital in nature will be equitably distributed, which usually means equal division of the values of marital assets and debts. You want to retain an attorney that is familiar with equitable distribution law in Florida and that will provide you with an understanding of what assets and debts are marital in nature, what assets and liabilities are non-marital, and how to value and distribute the marital assets and liabilities.
7. Will you or another attorney from the firm be handling my case?
Before you hire a lawyer, make sure they will be the attorney that is with you through this divorce process from start to finish.
8. Are you available via phone, email, zoom?
Divorce is not a one-and-done type of situation, so if something urgent comes up and you do not feel like you can wait until your next scheduled appointment to share it with your attorney, you will want to be able to connect with them on the phone, by email, or even by Zoom. It is important to know that you have clear and open lines of communication with your attorney.
9. Do you practice other areas of law and what is your caseload like?
Sometimes a jack of all trades is a master of none. Make sure the attorney that you retain practices exclusively in the area of divorce law.
10. Will I receive copies of documents filed with the court and will I be kept informed of all developments in my case?
Ask whether you will receive copies of all documents filed with the court and whether you will be kept informed of all developments in your case. Take this one step further and have the attorney explain how this will happen.
11. What is your retainer fee (how much do you charge)?
You want to understand the lawyer’s fee structure. What is their hourly billable rate? Will you sign a contract outlining the fee arrangement and will you receive monthly itemized billing statements? How often will you be billed? How often will you receive invoices?