We get calls all the time with people asking for information about each of our attorneys so they can decide who to meet with for their initial consultation. In most cases, they’ve already done a Google search to look at their online bios, their Avvo pages, and anything else they can dig up on the internet, but that doesn’t answer some of the more intangible questions.
When you get a divorce, you work very closely with your divorce attorney, and you have to share some of the more intimate details of your marriage—perhaps things that you haven’t been able to share with anyone ever before. Before you hire an attorney, you want to know that he or she is someone that you’ll be able to talk to. You want to know that you’ll feel comfortable, that you’ll be treated kindly and respectfully, and that you’ll have faith in their ability to do what needs to be done in your case. Personality matters!
In our area, though, most family law attorneys don’t offer free consultations. You’ve probably seen lots of TV commercials advertising free consultations but, in most cases, those are personal injury attorneys, and they approach initial consultations a little bit differently. They want to ask questions to find out whether yours is a case that will earn them enough money to be worth pursuing. Because they work on contingency fees (which means that they recover a portion of whatever settlement you receive, usually 30-40%), they want to interview you to find out whether yours is their next multimillion dollar case. Family law attorneys, on the other hand, can’t recover money on a contingency basis (like, by taking a portion of whatever you receive from your husband). In Virginia, taking a contingency fee in a divorce case is considered unethical, and we could risk being punished by the bar for doing it. When WE interview people for an initial consultation, though, we aren’t trying to decide whether your case will make money for us—we’re trying to listen to you, give you advice tailored to your specific situation, and help you figure out your next steps. It’s your first appointment in, just like it would be with a personal injury attorney, but our goals are very different. Because of this, and the legal and technical expertise involved, family law attorneys in our area tend to charge for initial consultations.
Still, you may be uncomfortable shelling out the money to meet with an attorney (even if you know his or her credentials are impressive) without having met them first. It’s a justifiable concern, too. You probably can’t afford to run around town having consultations with different attorneys until you find the one that clicks with you; after all, you’ve got a divorce to pay for! Still, you’d like to meet the attorney not just before you hire, but also before you decide to shell out the money for the initial consultation. After all, it factors into the money you have to spend on your divorce, too! Your money is important, and you should be confident when you spend it.
So, how can I meet my attorney BEFORE I decide to meet with him or her?
Most law firms don’t really provide tons of opportunities for you to get to know their attorneys. You can set up an appointment, but that’s about it. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Right? Of course right!
Girl’s Night Out
Our law firm sponsors Girl’s Night Out events at venues across Hampton Roads every 4-6 weeks or so to help encourage our current, former, and prospective clients to get out of the house to mix and mingle. It’s totally a social event—no boring divorce or custody information here—and it’s just intended to be a way for women who are going through something very difficult to have a free night away.
Not all of our attorneys are present at every event (and no men are allowed, so Jack and Charlie won’t be there), but you’ve got a good chance of meeting the attorney you’re interested in hiring if you come. Besides, what’s the risk? It’s all free, and you’ll have a chance to meet other women who are going through the same thing. You’re welcome to bring a (female) friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor, too, if you’d like. The more the merrier!
If you’d like more information about our upcoming events, you can visit our website (where you can also pre-register to attend) or check out our private Facebook group at gnohr.com. Chances are, we’ve got one coming up in your area very soon!
Second Saturday: What Every Virginia Woman Needs to Know About Divorce
Our monthly divorce seminars provide Virginia women with state-specific, up to date information about the divorce process in Virginia, and each seminar is taught by one of our attorneys. They’re not free—they cost $40 if you pre register online or $50 if you register at the door—but they’re a very inexpensive way to find out a lot of information about how divorce in Virginia works (like, a LOT of information!) and listen to one of our attorneys discuss it.
The seminars are offered on the Second Saturday of the month in both Virginia Beach (at the Friends Meeting House at 1537 Laskin Road) and Newport News (at the Hilton Garden Inn off of Victory Boulevard next to Regal Cinemas), and on the Third Tuesday of the month in the evenings in Virginia Beach (still at the Friends Meeting House). For more information about upcoming seminar dates and times, check out our website at monthlydivorceseminars.com, or give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.
It’s not a one-on-one conversation, but it’s a great way to learn a lot about the attorney’s personality. You can ask questions directly to the attorney during the seminar, so you’ll have an opportunity to figure out whether or not it’s a good fit. Plus, you’ll learn all about divorce in Virginia—which will help even more as you begin to think about scheduling that initial appointment.
We teach the seminars on a rotating basis, so you can always call in and check to see who is presenting in each location on a given date. If you’re hoping to see a particular attorney in action, just ask! We’ll be glad to tell you when you can next hear from any of us.
If you’d like to talk one on one with the attorney, the best thing to do is go ahead and schedule an appointment. But if you, like so many others, are worried about whether a specific attorney will be a good fit for you personality wise, attending one of the divorce seminars or a Girl’s Night Out event is a great way to figure out whom you’d like to hire to represent you.
It’s a great idea to meet your attorney before you schedule an initial consultation, and it’s certainly understandable that you want to make sure that the attorney you hire is, personality-wise, a good fit. Our law firm offers a couple different ways for you to meet the attorney you’re considering hiring. You should definitely take advantage of either our Girl’s Night Out events or our Second Saturday monthly divorce seminars.
Of course, once you go to a Girl’s Night Out event, you should definitely keep on attending. They’re tons of fun, and we’ve got a pretty dedicated group of women that continually come. Who knows when you’ll meet your new best friend, get a job offer (yes, it has happened!), or something else? It’s time to get back out there, meet people, and enjoy yourself.
For more information about hiring one of our attorneys or attending any of our upcoming programs, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.
How can I pay for my attorney?
I get it. Divorce is expensive, especially if you plan on hiring an attorney to represent you. If you’re like most people out there, you’ve heard horror stories about divorces that take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. The good news: the reality is that most divorces don’t take years or cost tens of thousands of dollars. The bad news: most divorces do, if you hire an attorney, cost at least several thousand dollars, and it can go up from there—depending on some factors that you can control and some factors that you have no control over whatsoever.
I don’t mean that to be discouraging. I want to give you a truthful, accurate, up to date idea about how much divorce costs, how people typically pay for divorce, and the alternative options that you have.
How do people pay for divorce?
I’m an attorney, though. I’m not a magician. I can’t magically make money appear where it doesn’t currently exist, and I always dread when, in my Second Saturday seminars, women ask me how they’re supposed to pay for divorce. It’s inevitable; it always happens. And the truth is that I don’t have a good answer. If there’s not money available in your checking or savings accounts, or you don’t have something tucked away for a rainy day, I can’t make it exist. I can tell you, though, that if you’re worried about how much your divorce is going to cost, you’re not alone. Many of our clients start out worrying that they won’t be able to afford the representation they need to protect themselves as they go through the divorce process. But, eventually, somewhere along the line, they figure out a way to make it work financially. Whether they take money out of a retirement account, call a family member or friend and ask for a gift or a loan, look into a loan from a third party, or put it on their credit cards, many women are able to find a way to pay for it when it matters.
I don’t know anything about your financial situation, and I don’t know what the credit limit on your credit cards is, or whether you have a kindly grandmother who will help you out if you get in a financial jam. I don’t know whether there even is a retirement account, or whether the bank or some other organization will give you a loan. I’m not even suggesting that you do one of these things; I’m just saying that’s how many of our clients have told us they were able to pay to have us protect them.
Because we know how difficult that money is to come by, we’re extremely respectful of it. Our attorneys understand the financial costs associated with divorce, and we do everything within our power to educate and empower our clients about their options, so that they can make informed, productive, cost-effective choices designed to move their cases forward. In most cases, they fall within a certain spectrum of cost. If you’re interested, ask your attorney when you meet with him or her for a ballpark estimate of what your case (or a case like yours) should cost. Understand, though, that the attorney will probably be uncomfortable, and that’s understandable because it really is difficult to estimate these things ahead of time. Still, you should be able to get an idea. Maybe not an exact dollar figure (okay, definitely not an exact dollar figure because that’s really impossible), but, barring some unforeseen circumstances, you should have a better idea of cost than you do now.
So, how much DOES divorce cost?
It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much divorce costs, and, of course, there are all different types of divorce. Divorces can be contested or uncontested, fault-based or no fault. They can raise complicated custody issues, divide family businesses, separate retirement accounts, sell (or keep or refinance) homes or other pieces of real property, and more.
The costs of divorce can vary widely, but a lot of the cost question depends on the type of divorce you choose to pursue. The least expensive divorce cases are the ones where a separation agreement is negotiated. The most expensive divorces are the ones that are litigated in the courts. But there’s a lot of variation, and there are all sorts of cases that fall somewhere in between.
Separation agreement cases
A separation agreement is a legal contract, signed by husband and wife, that divides all the assets and liabilities in the marriage. There’s really no rules or restrictions on these things (except, of course, that you can’t agree to do something that’s illegal), so there’s a lot of room for creativity.
You can negotiate a separation agreement in a number of different ways, each of which has some impact on the overall cost.
Many women choose to hire an attorney to negotiate a separation agreement on their behalf. In these cases, the retainers typically run between $2500-5000, depending on the attorney’s analysis of your case and how difficult it might be. Of course, you should understand that a retainer isn’t a flat fee; it’s an amount of money that is places in escrow and billed from at the attorney (or the paralegal’s) hourly rate as work is done. In many separation agreement cases, it is likely that the retainer amount will cover the whole case, but it’s possible that more money would be required. Negotiations go back and forth between you and your attorney and your husband and his attorney, if he’s represented by counsel, until you’re both satisfied with the final product and an agreement is signed.
You can also work with a mediator to draft a separation agreement. Since I’m not a mediator, I can’t give you an exact estimate for cost. Still, you should be aware that mediators, in most cases, are not attorneys, and it is not their job to “represent” you or give you any advice about what might be in your best interests. It is a mediator’s job to help two parties reach an agreement. That’s all. If you plan on working with a mediator, you should do so with a little bit of caution. Meeting with an attorney before and after mediation is definitely recommended. Beforehand, the attorney can tell you what you might reasonably expect to receive (or what the judge might award if you went to court), and, afterwards, the attorney can help review the agreement you’ve reached to make sure that it’s in your best interests—before you sign. (There’s really no such thing as un-signing your agreement later!)
Litigated Divorce Cases
Litigated divorce cases, or cases that go to court, are the most complicated and expensive. They can also vary the most in terms of total cost. Retainers for litigated divorces can run between $5,000-20,000 (or more, in some cases), again, depending on how complicated the attorney believes the case will be. It’s much more likely that your case will cost more than your retainer in a litigated divorce, but to get an idea of how much your case might actually cost, it’s best to talk to an attorney who knows more about your case.
Can I get him to pay my attorney’s fees?
We sometimes get asked about whether your spouse can be made to pay for your attorney’s fees. There can be all sorts of reasons—whether he is the one asking for the divorce and you don’t want it, or because he’s the one who is the financial breadwinner—but the answer is probably the same in virtually every case.
At least, no judge will order that he has to pay all your legal fees. As far as the judge is concerned, you can get divorced without an attorney—so why make your husband pay for YOUR personal financial decision to hire one to represent you? The judge would say that you’re capable of making decisions based on your budget, and you should hire someone you can afford.
That being said, there ARE times when a husband is ordered to pay a portion of the wife’s legal fees. Usually, it’s because he has done something wrong (like repeatedly withheld information requested by your attorney, or refused to respond to discovery over and over) in the eye’s of the court. No, being a general jerk doesn’t count—mostly, he might be ordered to pay some attorney’s fees (and usually only the extra fees associated with getting him to do what he was supposed to do anyway) if he slows down the court system. The court really isn’t very generous when it comes to awarding attorney’s fees and, in general, requires each party to be financially responsible for their own legal fees.
Alternatives to hiring an attorney
Of course, you don’t have to hire an attorney, especially if, financially, it’s really just not possible. There’s no shame in finding a divorce solution that works for you, your family, and your finances all at the same time. There’s really no one size fits all solution, anyway, so why not apply a little creative problem solving to see what you can come up with?
In Virginia, you don’t have to have an attorney to file for divorce and, ultimately, to actually get your divorce granted. At the same time, though, you probably have some reservations about truly handling your case yourself. And it makes sense. Because, if you’re like most people, you really don’t have a whole lot of experience with the divorce thing, and you may not have an idea of what you’re entitled to, where your wiggle room is, and how to strike a bargain with your husband that gives you the things you need to begin to build a new life for yourself.
Divorce is expensive, but with some careful decision making, you can put yourself in the best financial position possible. 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! To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 785-9761.