How to Prepare for a Florida Divorce: Financial Disclosures and Attorney Fees
By Orlando Divorce Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Florida Family Law Only, Since 2011
The Importance of Preparing Your Divorce Disclosure Documents
If you are married and a divorce is imminent, it is important to first prepare the documents that you need to show your attorney and the family court.
Unfortunately most married people do not make such a list when their union is sadly ending in divorce. For obvious reasons, divorce is an unpleasant reality that spouses do not want to face. However, if you’re reading this page, it is quite likely that you are now confronting that reality. If you have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, or if you want to initiate this process, my experience as a divorce attorney exclusively devoted to family law since 2011 tells me that you should take these three simple actions: (1) gather the financial disclosure documents, (2) begin drafting your financial affidavit and (3) make arrangements to pay for divorce attorney retainer fees.
Gathering the Financial Disclosure Documents
I strongly recommend that you to write down the values all of properties (assets) and debts (liabilities) that are in your name. These include checking and savings accounts, 401K and pension plans, accounts in trusts, bonds, stocks and other financial assets, as well as physical assets, such as land cars and houses. Also list your debts, such as credit cards, car loans and home loans. The statements of the financial accounts should be gathered for the last three months.
This serves two purposes: (a) to help complete most of the financial disclosure documents required under Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, and (b) to get a “snapshot” of the current value of the marital assets, which are usually measured at the time the divorce is initiated.
This is needed because an important portion of the divorce is the property distribution between the divorcing spouses. You, your spouse, the divorce lawyers and the family court judge need to have this information before acting. For more information on this topic please see Property Distribution in Divorce.
Drafting Your Financial Affidavit
You can download a financial affidavit from the Florida Courts website under Additional Supporting Documents | 12.902 | Forms B - J. If you earn less than $50,000 per year, complete the short form. If you earn more than that, work on the long form. All divorces (even uncontested ones) require the completion and filing of financial affidavits by both spouses.
This will expedite your divorce and give you a “big picture” perspective of your current financial state. These are part of the mandatory disclosure referred to above, and they will eliminate any doubts you have about your exact income.
Making Arrangements To Pay Divorce Attorney Retainer Fees
For many people, arranging for the payment of attorney fees may be a difficult step, but a critical one. Read the AAA Family Law attorney retainer fees listed on the Retainer Fees page as a guide to the approximate amount you will need to pay. These fees compare favorably to those of most family law firms. If you intend to file for the divorce first, you will also have to pay a $422 filing fee to the clerk of the court. If you need financing to pay for the retainer and filing fees, you should also read the page Financing Attorney Retainer Fees for advice on how to obtain financing and minimize its cost.
Keep in mind that withdrawing retainer fee money from a jointly-held account will not be viewed as wrongly dissipating marital assets. All family law judges were once lawyers. They understand that not everyone can initially afford a divorce attorney without some special efforts.
How to Seek Our Help
If you have been served with a petition for a divorce, or you want to file one yourself, please call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 to schedule an initial consultation with me, in person at our Altamonte Springs office (with address in Contact Us) or by phone.
At the consultation I will: (a) first listen to your explanation of the marital situation you are in and ask you to let me know what objectives you want the divorce process to achieve, (b) then present you with my proposed plan of legal action to help achieve your objectives and last (c) quote you a fixed (or flat) attorney retainer fee for your case, not an hourly rate whose total cost you cannot predict.
Our attorney retainer fee for contested divorce cases up to mediation ranges between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on its complexity. An additional retainer amount is set before the trial if the divorce settlement is not achieved during mediation. For an uncontested divorce the fees range from $1,200 to $1,800. Read the court costs and the range of attorney retainer fees charged for each type of case in Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.
Please read the Articles section for more information on Family Law topics.