You do not have to be a rocket scientist to launch yourself in a rocket. Mike Hughes showed that when he launched himself 1,875 feet upward, only to land hard in the Mojave Desert1. Of course, he got hurt doing it, which suggests that getting help from experts — like from NASA, let’s say — is often useful. We mention this because, in Virginia, you do not have to hire an attorney to engage with Virginia’s courts. You do not have to, but you should. And paying for a divorce attorney, you may feel like fees are sky high. So will your wife pay your attorneys’ fees?
Your Family Law Fees
In most family law matters, you hire a Virginia family law attorney using a retainer system. You pay a certain amount up front, then as your case evolves, that money goes toward attorney expenses:
- Attorney hours
- Document fees
- Investigation charges
- Court filing fees
You replenish the escrow account and continue, often for more than a year. This is, admittedly, often a large amount of money you pay out over time to get your divorce, child support, spousal support, or property settlement agreement taken care of.
If a family legal issue has been thrust upon you, of course you feel unfairly treated. You did not ask to incur $2,500, $5,000, or even $10,000 in legal fees, so perhaps your divorce attorney can make your wife (or ex-wife, or children’s mother) pay for your legal expenses.
Your Divorce Lawyer, Your “Choice”
So now you are standing in a Virginia Circuit Court, your attorney by your side, hopeful the judge will see your viewpoint.
No matter which party — mild-mannered, innocent you or that hussy you once called Honey — started the legal proceeding, Virginia courts instead see that you and she opted to hire attorneys. The Court will conclude you chose to, since you could, technically, have defended yourself.
Clearly the Virginia legislature has not heard of Mike Hughes and his Ridiculous Rocket. The thought of most Virginia men standing in a Circuit Court by themselves withstanding the legal punctures and pronouncements from opposing counsel is, frankly, absurd. You could represent yourself, but you will not stand a chance. Your wife’s attorney will run legal loops around you.
You will do yourself little good, too, to appeal to the judge that you cannot afford an attorney for the civil matter. You are not entitled to a state-appointed, taxpayer funded attorney in civil cases.
So you have little real choice but to hire a family law attorney. And that, no matter how much of a break a law firm might give you, costs money.
What’s the Need?
Some Virginia judges will take a look at each adult’s financial situation in a family law matter and realize one spouse is significantly better off than the other. As the Virginia Bar Association says,
Where one spouse is without funds to pay attorney’s fees at the outset of the representation, and the other spouse has much greater earnings or has control of the bulk of the marital assets, the court may award temporary attorney fees and costs to be paid by the other spouse. How much is awarded depends on many factors including the complexity of the case, the disparity in income between spouses, and the assets available to pay fees.
This is in no way guaranteed. A significant part of the judge’s decision is based on needs and fault; if you are divorcing your wife on fault grounds, you stand a better chance of getting the attorney fees paid by her.
When Should You Ask for Attorney Fees?
Some family law matters will rise to five-figure attorney fees for each side. This provides incentive for you to see if your wife will cover your attorney fees, since the cost of having your attorney prepare arguments for this are very small compared to the potential savings.
Suppose your fees throughout a messy but no-fault divorce are $15,000. If you pay your attorney $500 to prepare the argument for your wife to cover your attorney fees, you could save $15,000, including the $500! You could.
Getting your wife and her attorney to agree to this is no easy matter, and few judges will automatically rule in either party’s favor on this. Yet, it is worth trying if any possible evidence supports your side:
- She committed adultery or felonies
- Her attorney files nuisance motions
- She exhibits bad faith to the Court during proceedings
Attorney fees are only part of a complete family law picture. Discuss your options with your own trusted family law attorney.
The Firm For Men works exclusively with Virginia’s men, protecting their rights, asserting their viewpoints, defending their reputations. We often fight to preserve our clients’ financial futures, too, so if you worry you cannot afford a divorce attorney, please contact us online or by telephoning 757-383-9184.