An old saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
The same is true with paying for a divorce: if you think getting divorced is expensive, consider how much higher the cost—emotionally, mentally and financially—of staying together might be. Some people are just not suited for each other, and if you have children in the relationship, you can be doing them lasting harm by hanging on. Still, exactly how much does a divorce in Virginia cost?
Is an Attorney Necessary or Can I DIY Divorce?
The Virginia Bar Association honestly tells prospective couples that the professional services of its members are “technically not required in a divorce proceeding,” but cautions that each spouse should obtain separate legal counsel if there are issues in the divorce that may be contested, property rights need to be determined, or the custody of the children is in dispute.”
You can attempt a do-it-yourself divorce but you will likely pay far more in time, money, aggravation and unintended consequences than any attorney would cost. This is because you will likely be retracing your steps to file the correct court papers with your county’s courthouse after paying for, and downloading, some generic but unacceptable forms online. You can even attempt to represent yourself, but remember the ancient lawyerly proverb: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”—(Henry Kett, 1814).
Eliminating self-representation and internet lawyer-lite divorce, you are wise to move to professional counsel with a real Virginia lawyer, who can charge either by the hour or by the case.
Up Front Fees: What is a Retainer For?
Talk to your attorney immediately about the expected fees. Some fees are contingent on how many hours the lawyer puts into your case. Some fees stem from discovery and depositions; some come from the mundane chores of photocopying and mailing things.
A lawyer will usually ask for partial payment up front to get things started. This is a retainer, and not only gets paperwork going, it creates attorney-client privilege. This means your attorney is ethically bound to keep information you share confidential.
Who Has to Pay for the Divorce?
The Virginia Bar points out—and this can be significant—that one spouse may be asked to pay court costs and attorney fees for the other. The judge, not the two attorneys or their clients, makes the final decision on that. This means if you file for divorce and include a pleading for your wife to cover all the costs, you take the chance that the judge will rule against you. You would need funds available to cover court costs and also have the ability to at least set up a payment plan with your attorney.
Is a Divorce Worth the Cost?
Only you and your spouse can decide if the time and expense of a divorce is right for both of you. The least expensive, safest legal move is to engage attorneys for an uncontested divorce in which you work out most of your legal dilemmas amicably. You have many issues to consider:
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Division of real and personal property (land; vehicles; home; trophies; furniture; Pat Boone CDs; upcoming Adele concert tickets)
How Much are Court Costs for a Divorce in Virginia?
The Virginia Judicial System thoughtfully provides an online calculator to help you plan costs for divorce. Searchable by county, the automated system asks for a few parameters and then provides an actual dollar amount. For Virginia Beach circuit court, for example, having a sheriff serve papers to one party in a divorce proceeding will cost $98.
These are broken down very precisely:
- Writ Tax (049) $5.00
- Technology Trust Fund (106) $5.00
- Legal Aid Fee (123) $9.00
- Court Technology Fund (170) $10.00
- Clerk Fee (304) $50.00
- Indigent Defense Fund(147) $1.00
- Law Library Fee(219) $4.00
- Courthouse Maintenance Fee (229) $2.00
- Sheriff Services, 1 In State (206) $12.00
Depending on your county, other charges can apply:
- State Police Fee
- Docket Fee
- Bond Fee
- Registry Fee
- Courthouse Construction Fee
- CHP Background VCIN Fee
- E-Filing Fee
Every city has its own fee scale, so be sure to speak with your attorney for exact costs.
How Much are Attorney’s Fees?
Recent research puts divorce in Virginia in a range from $4,500 up to $32,000, with the average cost at $11,500. Involve children, they say, and the costs climb to $21,800.
These are not exact numbers; they are research-based averages. The actual costs for your particular situation may differ from those averages, and can include items you may not have considered, such as the work of your attorney’s many clerks, secretaries and investigators.
Are You Prepared Financially for a Divorce? Schedule a Consultation with a Men’s Only Divorce Lawyer.
The typical steps in a divorce may require extensive research and clerical work by the attorney’s office. Depositions, motions, accounting work and more can be part of the work your case needs.
To learn more about the actual costs of a divorce, call The Firm for Men at 757-383-9184 or contact our offices to schedule a no-obligation consultation. We serve only men in family law cases and are proud to serve the entire Hampton Roads area!