Can I hire an out of area attorney to represent me in Virginia?

Posted on Sep 11, 2015 by Katie Carter

We get calls all the time from the northern part of the state, from women living in Fairfax, Alexandria, and Fredericksburg, and also from the western part of the state, from women living in Roanoke, or Christiansburg.
Usually, they’re calling because they found us on the internet, and saw that our website was chock full of really valuable divorce and custody related information. Information that, frankly, they weren’t able to find quickly and easily anywhere else. For women with questions like, “Will I lose custody?” and “What are my divorce rights in Virginia?” there’s really only one place to go to find clear, concise, easy to understand answers, written by experienced lawyers specifically for the purpose of educating women. Other lawyers blog, too, of course, but their blogs tend to raise more questions than provide answers. Or end, frustratingly, with a sentence like, “if anything like this has happened to you, you need to talk to an attorney now.”
So annoying to reach out for some help, only to find a dead end. Right? I know you’re out there, googling at midnight, looking for answers. You know that you could get an answer by calling an attorney, but you’re just not ready to take that step yet. Whether you’re worried that placing that call will somehow open Pandora’s Box and lead you down a path that you’re not sure you’re ready for, or whether you just aren’t yet in a position to make any kind of financial commitment to a lawyer (including the cost of an initial consultation), you shouldn’t feel like you can’t find the answers that you’re looking for.
Of course, you probably already know that family law is nuanced. There are a lot of different factors involved in any cases, and the balance can easily be tipped one way or the other. But you’re not looking for complicated case analysis; you’re just looking for basic facts.
It has been our goal to provide those facts to Virginia women, at least as it relates to divorce and custody cases. With our extensive library, including blogs, articles, and videos (all written and presented by one of our Virginia licensed attorneys), our seminar offerings, do it yourself divorce program, and more, we’re committed to providing up to date, Virginia-specific divorce and custody law answers and explanations.
Because we spend so much time creating and publishing so much content, we pop up in searches all over the state. Women call us all the time, asking, “Will you travel to me?” The answer is, normally, yes.

Can I hire an attorney who is out of my area?

If, for whatever reason, you’re looking for a divorce or custody attorney who is out of your local area, it’s definitely doable. We see people from all over the state pretty frequently, for a number of different reasons. Maybe your husband is an attorney who knows all the other local attorneys, and you want someone new. Maybe your husband met with all the good attorneys in your area, so that they would be conflicted out from representing you. Maybe you just want a firm who represents women only, because your case raises specific issues (like spousal support) that a women’s only firm would be more sensitive towards. Maybe you found an attorney and you just know she’s the perfect person to represent you, and there just isn’t anyone like her in your area. Whatever your reason, it’s fine. It happens, and, in most cases, we can work it out.
Most of the time, we don’t need to meet in person at all. For things like separation agreements, or other negotiated contracts, it’s not necessary to meet face to face at all. Of course, you probably don’t want to hire an attorney based on a headshot and an online profile; you want to talk to and get a sense of the person you’re hiring. You need to know if you click. We meet with clients all the time via Skype, so you’ll have the same in-person experience as anyone walking into our office.
Of course, if your case involves court appearances or other events (like depositions), it will be necessary for your attorney to travel to the court where your case will be held. That’s fine; we do things like that all the time. The thing you need to know ahead of time, though, is that the attorney will bill for her time, including travel, to get to and from the court, deposition, settlement conference, or other event. It’s totally up to you whether that’s something that you’re willing to pay or not.

How do I even know where my case will be?

A lot of women call, too, wondering where their case will actually be filed. Jurisdiction can be super complicated, and I can’t get into all the nuance here, but, generally, as far as divorce is concerned your case will be in the circuit court of the city where you last lived as husband and wife. For custody, on the other hand, it’s where the children have been residents, usually for at least the last six months.
If you lived somewhere with your kids and then moved away, the new city and state wouldn’t have jurisdiction over custody until the child had lived there long enough to be considered a resident. Every state handles this a little bit different; in Virginia, though, you have to be a resident for at least six months.

Can’t I just file where YOU are, and travel to you if there’s court?

It really all depends. A lot of times we can file things, like uncontested divorces, in any court we want. Different courts have different rules about it, but technically any court can grant a divorce. If it’s contested, though, it’s unlikely that another court will allow your case to be filed there. Even though you pay a fee to file a case, there are costs associated with taking on cases, and a contested case is a drain on the court system.
Not only that, but your husband might have something to say about it! He’s certainly not going to like traveling to and from some far away courthouse, and, if he has a lawyer, he would certainly file a motion to contest the venue and have it moved to somewhere more appropriate.
As far as jurisdiction goes, you’re probably stuck.
It is absolutely possible to hire an out of area attorney to represent you in your divorce or custody case. In fact, we do it all the time. Still, you should be prepared for paying extra in terms of travel costs, especially if your case is one that will require in-court appearances, depositions, or settlement conferences. If, on the other hand, your case is uncontested, it’s entirely possible that it would cost the same as hiring a local attorney, because in person meetings probably wouldn’t be necessary. Most attorney/client communication can take place via phone or email and, when a meeting is necessary, Skype is always an option.

Are there any other options? I like you, I trust you, I want to work with you.

If you still want more, or you’re ready to take the next step, consider attending one of our divorce seminars. We teach them on the second Saturday of each month in both Virginia Beach and Newport News, and on the third Tuesday of the month in Virginia Beach. It’s a great way to get information directly from one of our divorce attorneys—because each seminar is taught by one! You can ask your questions and get the information you need to decide what to do next.
For more information, visit our site by clicking here.
If you’re ready to talk to an attorney one-on-one, we can help you with that, too! For more information about hiring us, even if you live in Fairfax, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, or Danville, give us a call at (757) 425-5200.