Did you hire an attorney for a flat fee, or, did you pay a retainer and agree to pay the attorney hourly?
Some lawyers will agree to take your case for a flat fee under the agreement that the case remains, for example, as an Uncontested Divorce. This can be a bit tricky as no one really knows what is going to occur during the process. Maybe the 'issues' which were originally agreed upon change, and now you may be looking at a Contested Divorce. As an example, the Attorney's Fee Agreement may specify the 'terms' and will most likely state that the 'flat fee' will remain unless the case changes from Uncontested to Contested, in which case the attorney will request additional funds and will continue to represent you as long as you can afford the fees.
But, I can't afford to pay more than the 'Flat Fee' Arrangement; Now What?
We have a saying in our office, 'You can always make more money, but, you cannot get time back'. This is a good time to reach out to family or friends for a loan with a 'promise to pay' them back.
Some people will take out a personal loan, or, will use their credit cards to continue to pay their attorney. In any event, your case will not stop for lack of funds. Your attorney will most likely request to withdraw from your case if you cannot continue to pay the attorney's fees. You may think that this is not really fair, but, at the end of the day, everyone is working for a living. It's funny how some people feel that their attorney 'owes' them the continued representation; not sure why they think this, but it is not uncommon.
Some attorneys will agree to make 'payment arrangements' with you, and, some will not. The time to have considered this option would have been at the time of 'hire' with language in your fee agreement addressing the 'what if....'. This way, everyone is on the same page with no surprises. Surprises during a family law matter are highly unwanted!
My Spouse makes more money than I do, why can't they pay my attorney?
There are some situations where a Judge may order that the spouse who earns greater income will be required to pay for the other spouse's lawyer's fees. "Under Florida law, the courts may award attorney's fees and costs in marital dissolution, paternity, child custody and support, modification, or enforcement and contempt proceedings. Costs are separate from attorney's fees, and are comprised of the expenses the parties incur in bringing or opposing a lawsuit."
When does this happen?
The request can be made at any time during the case. The Court can decide to have the other party pay your attorney's fees, payable to you, or, payable to the attorney. This doesn't help much during your case though. And, there are no guarantees that the Court will act in your favor.
Can I finish the case myself?
Of course you can.....or....can you? You may finish the case yourself, but the big question is, 'Can You?'. It really depends on how you feel about acting on your own behalf without having the legal know how. It can be pretty scary, and it is, undoubtedly, quite time consuming. You always have the option of going to the State of Florida's self-help site However, for folks who are not lawyers, there usually is a great deal of confusion as to how to complete and file the necessary paperwork. This can be overwhelming. If you get confused, you're not alone!
As easy as you may think it is to find the correct documents, understand what you need to do, figure out how to file them with the Court, keep track of deadlines, etc. it isn't so easy. Probably should be but....