Family Law Frequently Asked Questions
Case Timeline for Family Cases
Family cases include initial petitions for timesharing and/or child support, modification of timesharing and/or child support, and dissolution (divorce). For dissolution cases involving children, your case will involve separating assets and liabilities as well as establishing timesharing and child support. For dissolution cases without children, your case only involves separating assets and liabilities. For establishing or modifying timesharing or child support, division of assets and liabilities will not apply to your case. However, in all family cases, mandatory disclosures are required. This is a mechanism in which all of your income is verified through account statements and tax documents so that child support can be accurately calculated and/or the judge can accurately decide what assets and liabilities to split.
Our office no longer provides consultations unless you hire us. Instead, you will pay a consultation fee of $350. If you decide to hire our firm, we will credit that $350 to your account for future legal services. Our firm takes a straightforward and transparent approach to costs associated with legal services. That is why we post all of our fees on our website. Here are the fees you can expect to spend at the start of your case:
Retainer: $3,000.00 nonrefundable retainer
Hourly Rate: $350.00 per hour (time is calculated in 6 minute increments)
Phone calls: Minimum charge of $125.00
Filing Fee for Establishing Timesharing: $300.00
Filing Fee for Modification of Timesharing/Support: $50.00
Filing Fee for Simplified Dissolution: $397.50
Filing Fee for Dissolution: $400.00
Process Server Fee: $70.00
Mediation: $350.00 to $500.00 (estimate, but may be more or less)
The purpose of the initial consultation is to advise the attorney about your case and provide information so that the case can be evaluated. You and the attorney will plan a course of action and will discuss how your case will be handled. At the conclusion of the initial consultation, you will:
- Sign Representation Agreement if you decide to hire the firm. This outlines the roles and responsibilities of attorney and client.
- Pay the nonrefundable retainer. The nonrefundable retainer secures the attorney’s availability for your case. The attorney will begin working on your case immediately and will bill against the retainer until it is depleted. The attorney will let you know when you need to provide a new retainer.
- Pay the cost deposit. The cost deposit covers the filing fee the Clerk of Court requires to start your case, the cost of issuing a summons, the cost of a process server, and the cost of mediation. All family cases are required to attend mediation prior to scheduling a final hearing if the parties have not agreed on the outcome of the case.
- Complete a Financial Affidavit with the attorney. This is required for all family cases and cannot be waived. All parties are required to list all assets and all liabilities. This document is then used to determine what documents you need to provide to the opposing party.
- Complete and sign Initial Pleadings. The attorney will draft the initial pleadings with you and have you sign them at the initial consultation. This ensures your case gets immediate attention and is started right away.
- Draft proposed Marital Settlement Agreement. You will advise the attorney on how you want your assets and liabilities to be divided.
- Draft proposed Parenting Plan. You will advise the attorney on the timesharing schedule you believe serves your child’s best interests.
- Begin collecting Mandatory Disclosures. This is the most time consuming task and is one that you will need to begin immediately upon leaving the attorney’s office. Florida law requires that each party in a family case disclose certain documents to verify your income, assets, and liabilities to determine how the courts should divide your assets and liabilities and calculate child support.
Ten days after the Initial Consultation:
- Mandatory Disclosures are due to the attorney. The attorney needs time to review your mandatory disclosures and redact account numbers, social security numbers, or other confidential information prior to disclosing the documents to the other side.
- Proposed Marital Settlement Agreement is completed.
- Proposed Parenting Plan is completed.
- Initial Pleadings are filed. The documents you signed at the initial consultation will be filed with the Clerk of Court.
- Summons issued by Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court will sign a summons which informs the opposing party they have 20 days to respond.
- Initial Pleadings & Summons sent to a process server to be served upon the opposing party. A process server will serve a copy of the initial pleadings on the opposing party and will provide an affidavit which states the date and time the opposing party was served.
20 days after opposing party is served:
- Response and counter petitions are due from the opposing party. The opposing party has 20 days after they are served to file a response to the initial pleadings. They may also choose to file a counter petition, which means they are asking the court for an outcome that is different from the one you requested in the initial pleadings.
20 days after opposing party’s response and counter petitions:
- Response to any counter petitions is due. We have twenty days to file a response to any counter petition that the opposing party may file.
45 days after initial pleadings are filed:
- Mandatory disclosures are due to the opposing party. We have 45 days after we file the initial pleadings to serve a copy of the mandatory disclosures to the opposing party. Our law firm does this electronically.
45 days after response and counter petition:
- Opposing party’s mandatory disclosures are due to us. The opposing party has 45 days after they file a response or counter petition to provide us with a copy of their mandatory disclosures.
60 days after initial pleadings are filed:
- Our office makes every attempt to schedule mediation within 60 days of filing the initial pleadings. This may not be possible due to previously scheduled trials or hearings with our office or with the opposing party, especially if they have hired an attorney. It may also depend on availability of the selected mediator.
75 days after initial pleadings are filed:
- Our office makes every attempt to schedule the final hearing within 75 days of filing the initial pleadings. This may not be possible due to previously scheduled trials or hearings with our office or with the opposing party, especially if they have hired an attorney. It also depends on the availability of the assigned judge. Judges may have thousands of cases assigned to them at any time. They do their best to schedule hearings as quickly as possible.
- At the final hearing, you will appear before the judge assigned to your case. The judge will place you under oath and you will be asked several questions. If the case has not been settled prior to the final hearing, it will proceed as a contested trial. The judge will evaluate your evidence, which may include witnesses and documents as well as the opposing party’s evidence and make a determination according to law as to how your assets and liabilities should be divided as well as determine the timesharing schedule and child support.
Frequently asked questions
Why don’t you do consultations?
We offer consultations for individuals who decide to hire us. Many times, you may simply want to know how much it will cost to hire us or how long your case will take. That is why we post this information online. The consultation fee ensures that our time is devoted to what is most important to us: our clients.
When can you get started on my case?
We get started even before the initial consultation. Our goal is to take as much stress off your plate as possible. We have most of the documents required to start your case completed by the end of the initial consultation.
What if my spouse does not respond?
We can file for a default judgment. This simply means we ask the Clerk of Court to enter a judgment in our favor since the opposing party did not respond. We can set your case for a final hearing after the default is entered and the judge may grant all the requests in your petition.
My child’s other parent is interfering in my relationship with my child. What can we do about it?
This is probably the biggest complaint we hear in cases involving children. Every child deserves a loving relationship with both of their parents. That’s why we work diligently to get the facts of your case in front of a judge as soon as possible. If your child’s other parent is doing things such as monitoring your phone or video calls with your child, purposely excluding you from important events, blocking your phone number, refusing to let you see your child, making decisions about your child without consulting you, or turning your child against you, the judge needs to know. Florida law requires the judge to evaluate the facts of your case to determine the child’s best interests.
Why doesn’t your firm take appointments on Mondays or Fridays?
We block off Mondays and Fridays so that our team can work on your case uninterrupted. This means 100% of our focus is on preparing your case, moving your case forward, or closing your case. Sometimes emergencies pop up over the weekend that require the attorney to act swiftly. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we had a fully booked schedule. We offer appointments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm and after hours upon request.
Why does your firm require me to make an appointment to return my call?
Our firm does not take unscheduled phone calls. We need time to work on your case. That includes reviewing documents you provided us, the opposing party provided us, researching, or drafting documents. If it is urgent, please send an email to [email protected]. Email is the best and fastest way to get ahold of your attorney.