The Miami Herald is reporting that many couples in Miami-Dade, Broward and South Florida are staying together or appearing pro se (without a lawyer) because they are unable to pay a divorce attorney. Some divorce lawyers in Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, Miami, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale state that their divorce business is down as much as 35%. In addition, many potential new clients do not appear for their consultation because they are embarrassed that they can not afford the consultation fee.
According to court records, 16,868 divorces were granted in 2006 in Miami-Dade, 16,005 in 2007 and 14,631 in 2008. In Broward, 11,179 cases were filed in 200, 9,876 in 2007 and 8,924 in 2008. Circuit Court Judge Sandy Karlan, administrative judge of the family division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Miami-Dade, believes that there has been an increase in modification of divorce agreements and support payments as well as spouses seeking contempt remedies to enforce their alimony and child support. In addition, Judge Karlan has observed couples continuing to live in their marital residence after the entry of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
The economy appears to have a greater effect on the lower and middle class more than the wealthy. Many potential clients are requesting free consultations but have no intentions of retaining a Miami or Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer. Marital and family law attorneys are also dealing with many cases where a spouse is unable to live up to the terms and conditions of their marital settlement agreement.
While some lawyers have reduced their retainer and hourly rate, now accept credit cards and are offering payment plans, many individuals are opting to handle their case pro se (without a lawyer). However, Miami and Broward divorce lawyers often are retained during or after the divorce to fix the mistakes made by clients who file their own divorces that deal with alimony, child custody and support, time-sharing, parenting plans and equitable distribution of property.