If you’re a Floridian facing the end of your marriage, you probably have a lot of questions—including how much a divorce will cost and how long the process will take. We surveyed readers who recently went through a divorce to ask them about their experiences. We also studied data reported by Florida family law attorneys about their fees and billing practices. After comparing and analyzing the results, here’s what we learned about divorce in Florida.
The Cost of Divorce Lawyers in Florida
Most people get legal help with their divorce. And when they do, the attorney’s fees are the biggest divorce cost. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of Florida readers hired a lawyer in some capacity, and the vast majority of those (85%) had the attorney handle their entire case, from the beginning to the end (what’s known as “full-scope” representation). In this typical scenario, your total bill will hinge on two main factors: the lawyer’s hourly rate (divorce lawyers almost always charge by the hour) and the number of hours required for your case.
Hourly Rates for Florida Divorce Lawyers
The Florida lawyers in our study reported the minimum and maximum hourly rates they charge. Across the state, the average minimum was $260 per hour, while the average maximum was $330 an hour. These figures are somewhat higher than the national average rates for family lawyers. In part, that could be due to the higher rates reported by attorneys in the greater Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metropolitan area ($285-$365, on average).
In addition to the typically higher rates in big cities, attorneys with years of specialized family law practice generally charge hourly fees at the higher end of the range. Even so, these seasoned specialists can often handle difficulties that arise in divorce cases more efficiently than less-experienced lawyers—which can mean fewer hours on the bill.
Total Typical Cost of a Divorce Lawyer in Florida
To get an idea of the typical total costs for a divorce lawyer, we analyzed the combined data in our reader survey and attorney survey. This analysis showed that the total cost of a full-scope divorce attorney in Florida ranges from an average minimum of $11,000 to an average maximum of $14,000.
Of course, those are just overall averages. The issues involved in your case (discussed below) will be a big factor in determining your costs. Also, our survey showed that people typically reported lower total costs if they hired consulting attorneys to handle only certain parts of their cases (such as preparing or reviewing a settlement agreement or representing them in mediation). This kind of limited legal assistance clearly isn’t for everyone, though; only 10% of Florida readers used consulting attorneys.
What Affects the Cost of Florida Divorces?
One of the most important factors that will affect the amount of time your attorney spends on your case—and thus your total costs—is how many disagreements you have with your spouse about significant issues, such as:
- child custody and support
- alimony (also known as spousal support), and
- dividing marital property and debts.
Resolving these disputes requires a lawyer’s time for things like conducting discovery (exchanging financial documents and other information), filing motions and representing you at hearings (for instance, if a spouse has asked for temporary child support), and negotiating a settlement agreement. And if you and your spouse can’t agree on a settlement for one or more issues, it will take even more work for your lawyer to prepare for and represent you at a divorce trial.
In order to see how these issues impact divorce costs in Florida, we looked at the average attorneys’ fees in different scenarios, based on our analysis of the combined data from the survey and attorney study. The results showed that for those who don't have any contested issues in their divorce, the average total cost is $4,000-$5,000 (based on minimum and maximum hourly fees). The average is $6,000-$7,000 with one issue resolved through a settlement, and $10,000-$12,500 for two or more disputes but no trial. Once readers have to go trial to resolve their disputes, average costs climb even further: $14,000-$17,000 for trial on one issue and $19,000-$23,000 for trial on two or more issues.
What Other Expenses Contribute to the Cost of Divorce in Florida?
Whether you hire an attorney or represent yourself in your divorce, you’ll face other expenses in your divorce, including filing fees, mediation, and paying for experts like child custody evaluators, appraisers, and financial analysts. Floridians in our survey paid an average of $1,350 in these other expenses, which was somewhat lower than the national average of $1,600.
What Affects How Long Divorce Takes in Florida?
Many of the same factors that raise the cost of divorce also play a part in how long it takes to complete a divorce. Your divorce could drag on—even beyond the national average of 12 months—if you have multiple contested issues and if you can’t settle those disputes without a trial. This is true no matter what state you live in. Still, even though Florida has a relatively short waiting period before a divorce can be final (20 days), some things that are specific to the state can add to the time a divorce takes:
- Delays for divorces with children. When a divorcing couple has minor children, Florida law authorizes the court to delay the case for up to three months (to give the couple time to try to reconcile) or to order one or both spouses to meet with a marriage counselor, psychologist, clergy member, or other qualified professional. Also, custody disputes can add time to the divorce process. According to Florida divorce attorney Donna Baccarella, the psychological evaluations and court-ordered studies that are commonly required in custody disputes in Florida take a minimum of three months.
- Adultery and alimony. In Florida, courts may consider either spouse’s adultery when deciding whether to grant alimony and, if so, how much. So an accusation of adultery would make it more likely that the couple will take their alimony dispute to trial, and it will take extra time—and money—to gather evidence of the affair (which is likely to come from a private investigator).
- Busy court calendars. A review of Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey puts Florida in the top-ten states for divorce rates. A high rate of divorce often translates into busy family courts and longer waiting times for hearings and trials.
Florida does have a streamlined procedure for uncontested divorce that could speed things up, but not all couples are eligible. Among other requirements for a simplified dissolution of marriage, you and your spouse can’t have any dependent children, must have already agreed on how to divide your assets and debts, aren’t requesting alimony, and agree that the marriage can’t be saved.
More Information and Resources on Florida Divorce
If you decide that you need an attorney’s help with your divorce, it’s important to select a qualified family lawyer who will be a good fit for you. And for more information and resources on divorce in Florida, follow the links below: