How much does a Virginia divorce cost?

Posted on Mar 19, 2014 by Katie Carter

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to you that, for most women, the first question out of their mouths has to do with how much the divorce process will cost. Women ask me all the time how much our initial consultation costs, how much it costs to hire an attorney, and to provide a “ball park” figure for how much a divorce costs.


Women ask all the time whether we offer free consultations. We don’t, and there’s a reason why. We really feel like the initial consultation is an incredibly important appointment. It’s not an hour or a half hour that we set aside merely to “sell” ourselves or the law firm. For us, it’s an opportunity to hear you and really listen to what you have to say, give you solid legal advice regarding the specific and unique situation you’re facing, and come up with a game plan with for how to move you forward.

We really pride ourselves on making sure that our consultations are filled with value for you. We think this is the best way to help you decide how you want to move forward, whether you ultimately decide to hire one of us to represent you or not. Still, the act of strategizing and offering specific legal advice for your individual situation is difficult—it requires knowledge of the law, experience, and professional judgment. We do charge for this appointment, but we provide tremendous value.

Hiring an Attorney

Attorneys can bill in all sorts of different ways. In family law, most of what we do is billed to our clients on an hourly basis.

Why can’t I pay a portion of my divorce settlement?

What you’re talking about here is what we call a “contingent fee.” It means that we don’t get paid until the case is resolved. You see these advertisements all the time, “You won’t pay a penny until we get money for you!” or something to that effect. We don’t do this in family law. Why? We aren’t allowed to. Lawyers in Virginia are governed by very strict rules of ethics, and this isn’t something that family law attorneys are allowed to do. Personal injury attorneys work this way, but not family law attorneys. We just can’t.

What’s a retainer?

Usually, family law attorneys require a retainer to take on legal work for a client. A retainer is an agreement with the firm that specifically sets forth the terms of the attorney/client relationship. You’ll sign a contract that discusses how the lawyer’s office works, exactly what work is to be performed, and then you’ll pay a sum of money to the firm. You sign a “retainer agreement,” and the money paid is called a “retainer.” Each attorney is responsible for determining how much the retainer is in any particular case, and then the money is placed in a trust account with your name on it. The money is yours until the attorney does work, bills your file for it, (at his or her hourly rate), and then the money is transferred to the firm’s account.

This is not a flat fee. If you run out of money, your attorney will request that you replenish your account. At the end of your case, whatever is left is refunded to you.

Can I just pay a flat fee?

In a flat fee arrangement, you pay just one sum of money and that covers whatever you hired your lawyer to do. You aren’t billed extra for phone calls, document drafting, or court appearances—everything is covered in the fee you’re quoted at the beginning. Not many family law attorneys in the area practice this way, but Kristen Hofheimer at our office is willing to take flat fee cases. To find out whether this is the best option for you, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200 and schedule an appointment with Kristen.

How much does divorce cost?

I know, I know. I’ve answered a lot of questions about money in divorce cases, but I haven’t answered the real question. Exactly how much does divorce cost? Or, if I could give a ball park figure, what would I say divorce costs? It’s so hard to say

There are contested divorces (where the couple fights over everything) and uncontested divorces (where the couples reach an agreement and stay out of court). I think it’s probably safe to say that most uncontested divorces cost between $1,500-7,500. For a contested divorce, though, it’s more difficult to say. Contested divorces can range from $10,000 at the low end of the scale to hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re fighting over everything and an agreement seems unlikely, you will spend far, far more than you have to.

Keep in mind that I don’t know you, your husband, or any of the facts that are unique to your specific situation, so what I’m offering here are just estimates, based on my experience, and not absolute fact as far as you may be concerned. If keeping costs down is your goal, that is certainly something you can work with your attorney to achieve. We all do our best to be incredibly respectful of our clients, their budgets, and their goals for the future, and we come up with our case strategies with these things at the forefront of our minds.

What if I want to get a divorce without an attorney?

Lots of online sources offer do-it-yourself programs, but there are a whole host of problems with these sites. You have to be careful when you’re trusting everything to a nameless, faceless internet source! You should definitely be sure that the information you’re getting is state specific (trust me, it really, really, really matters) and comes from an attorney.

For more information about the costs of divorce or to talk to an attorney about your individual case, call (757) 425-5200.