Family Law


My Approach


Divorce is a stressful experience. Clients want it done quickly, inexpensively, and fairly---which is our goal too. Don’t attorneys make more money the more they litigate cases? Yes, but I take the long-term approach. Over the years, I have found that happy clients refer me new clients. The best way to make clients happy is to resolve their legal problems with a minimum of emotional and financial loss. Resolving the matter quickly, inexpensively and fairly is good for the client and good business for me.


However, some cases simply do not settle by an agreement and require a trial. Emotions run high in family law matters, and the contestants are not always reasonable.



What should I look for in a divorce lawyer?


Do you want to settle and control your outcome? Or, do you want to fight and let a judge decide your fate? Most clients want to resolve their divorce case without wasting time and money. I am solution oriented. Will I litigate when necessary to protect your interests? Absolutely. However, unlike some other divorce lawyers, I am not looking to start a fight. That simply means that I am going to look for ways to settle your case instead of exploring ways to prolong your case.



Does the divorce lawyer my spouse chooses matter?


Yes, it definitely matters. If your spouse chooses a divorce lawyer with a settlement mentality, then there is a better chance of getting the case resolved by way of agreement quickly. This should not be taken as a sign of weakness. Contrary to their bark, some lawyers who like to fight (or claim to be “aggressive”) are not effective in court. In any event, all divorce cases are sent to mediation. What can make the difference in whether the case settles is who is representing the parties. Do the lawyers want to facilitate settlement or do they want to get in the way (or block) settlement by their words and actions.



How much will my case cost?


Everyone wants to know this, but it is very hard to predict at the beginning of a case. I charge for my time. The amount of time that is expended depends on the facts, as well as what you and the opposing party choose to do. I will try to give you a rough estimate once I know more about your case.



Why shouldn't I hire a less expensive attorney or handle my own case?


In law, as in all other aspects of life, you usually get what you pay for. An uncontested divorce with no children, no real property, no business interests and no retirement is something that probably can be handled on a do-it-yourself basis, if you have the time. I can save a few dollars by tuning up my own car, but I prefer to have a professional mechanic to do it quickly and efficiently. Many of my clients find that it is worth it to pay a professional to handle their divorce even if it is a "simple" case.



Why don't you charge a flat fee?


Flat fees are appropriate for cases that are always the same and require the same amount of time. Lawyers who draft wills and deeds, for example, often charge a flat fee for each type of document that the client requests. Litigation in family court is challenging and complex. One child custody case may be settled with a few hours of attorney time, while another may require a two-day trial. Charging the same amount for both cases would not make sense.



Why don't you charge a contingent fee?


A contingent fee means that the lawyer agrees to take a percentage of whatever he recovers for the client as his fee. Personal injury attorneys frequently advertise "no fee, if no recovery" and take one-third of their client's settlement. However, lawyers are prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct from charging a contingent fee in a family law matter.



What is the difference between fees and costs?


Fees are a charge for the time of an attorney. Costs are out-of-pocket expenses incurred. Costs include court filing fees, service fees, copying costs, and transcript costs. In complex cases, costs can include payment for expert witnesses, private investigators, and forensic accounting.



How often will I get a bill?


I send a detailed statement every month. The statement shows, by date, what was done and how much time it took. The statement also shows any costs paid, the remaining balance and any payment received during the preceding month.



Contested vs. Uncontested


Different lawyers define the term differently. In my practice, I consider a divorce "uncontested" if the parties reach an agreement on all issues before filing the divorce action and the other party signs a settlement agreement and supporting documents that I prepare for my client. If the other party files a court action, hires a lawyer, refuses to sign the settlement or otherwise fails to cooperate, then the divorce is "contested."



Can my spouse and I hire you for an uncontested divorce?


No. A lawyer can only represent one client in a divorce case and is prohibited by ethics rules from representing both sides. In an uncontested divorce, my client is typically the "petitioner" (the one who is initiating the divorce). If the other spouse, the "respondent," chooses not to retain an attorney and signs the divorce settlement that I prepare, then the divorce is uncontested.



What is a "no-fault" divorce?


In the old days, a spouse seeking a divorce had to prove adultery, desertion or cruelty by the other spouse. In Florida, that is no longer the case. A divorce can be obtained without proving "fault" on the part of the other spouse. In fact, the conduct of the spouses is generally irrelevant to the issues in a divorce case, with two major exceptions: the personal conduct of a parent may be relevant in a child custody dispute; and financial misconduct by a spouse may be relevant to the division of assets and debts or other financial issues in the divorce.



How long will my divorce take?


Predicting the length of a divorce case is extremely difficult. An uncontested divorce could take as little as thirty days, assuming that the parties have agreed on all issues and are responding promptly. A contested case requiring a full-blown trial on major issues such as custody, visitation, support, or division of the marital estate may take nine months to a year. Cases which settle short of trial fall somewhere in the middle.



What if we change our mind and decide to remain married?


If the parties reconcile and desire to remain married, it is a simple matter to dismiss the divorce case by agreement any time prior to the entry of a divorce decree. Once a divorce decree has been signed by a judge, the divorce is final. However, the parties are free to remarry if they wish.


Do you have a question now? Even if it’s after hours or on a weekend, call Jeffrey Begens right now on his cell phone @ 561-512-8850 (really).





Call 561-694-0795 for a free consultation


3507 Kyoto Gardens Drive, Suite 110

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410