How to get a free Virginia divorce

 

I’m sorry to tell you, but there’s absolutely no such thing as a free divorce. At the very, very, very least, in order to file for a divorce, you will have to pay an $85-90 filing fee. You’ll also pay $25-60 or so to have your divorce complaint served on your husband. Want a name change? That’ll cost, too – there’s usually a $20-something fee for that.

Those are not attorney-related charges. Those are charges levied by the court. We have absolutely no control over those costs; they’re set by the court in question. Though the fees are similar, from court to court, they’re not exactly the same.

So, all that to say that, almost no matter what, you’ll have to pay at least some fees to the court to get a divorce.

And that has nothing to do with having representation or attorney advice in your divorce case; those fees just get the administrative pieces done.

Having attorney representation is not free, either.

If you qualify, you could potentially qualify for some Legal Aid services. It is difficult to qualify, though, and, even if you do, Legal Aid generally only provides assistance with uncontested cases. Contested cases take too much time and money. Legal Aid attorneys are spread thin and inadequately funded. Simply put, they don’t have the resources to take on nasty contested divorce battles.

You may find an attorney willing to take a case pro bono – but, honestly, that’s incredibly unlikely. I’m sorry to say it. But, again – nasty contested cases are time consuming and expensive, and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to take those on for free.

You can call around and see whether you can find pro bono help. But what I’d recommend, really, is that you start by educating yourself on the divorce process in Virginia, by requesting a free copy of our divorce book or attending our low cost monthly divorce seminar.

In Virginia, you can represent yourself in a divorce or custody case – without an attorney.

It’s perfectly legal for you to represent yourself in a divorce or custody case in Virginia. There is no requirement that you hire an attorney.

If you’re going to do that, though, I’d want to make sure that you’re not going to do a worse job than your husband’s attorney would do for you! You’re going to need to take on the responsibility of educating yourself, and making sure that you know what you’re entitled to. Otherwise, you run the risk of selling yourself super short, or making serious mistakes that cost you big.

Did you think it was a big deal when you bought your car? Did you think that purchasing a house was an important decision? When you set up your retirement accounts, was that something that was important to you? Do you need the money from any of these assets to set up your post-divorce life?

If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’, you’re really going to want to take your divorce seriously. Buying a car is a big deal.

But dividing ALL of your assets and liabilities, determining child and/or spousal support, and resolving custody and visitation is literally a make or break situation.

I don’t mean to scare you. But you really do have to take this seriously, and know what you’re entitled to receive. That’s a real concern to me, because I am face-to-face all the time with women who tell me they KNOW something to be true (like, for example, the military ten year myth) – when what they know to be true is completely, 100% false!

It’s important to be clear on your intentions. Are you doing everything you can to save the $5,000 it might cost to hire an attorney (to be clear, it could be higher or lower depending on the type of case you’re facing) only to wind up costing yourself tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars? It’s not hard for a divorce to divide hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets – or even liabilities.

Does it matter to you what happens to the credit cards? Because that negative money is important, too, and has to be allocated in your divorce.

When it comes to divorce, you have budget-friendly options, in addition to doing it yourself: mediation, negotiation, collaboration.

Look into mediation, negotiation, and/or collaboration; they’re what we call “alternate dispute resolution” or ADR. They may help you find a way to resolve your case without court, saving tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, and making the entire process more affordable.

For more information, too, you could consider hiring an attorney as more of a consultant. Rather than having him or her represent you one on one, you could just meet with that attorney by the hour, to review the documents you prepared for court, or help you negotiate your separation agreement.

Attorney/client relationships, just like divorces, are not one size fits all. I know that you’re concerned about your budget, and that’s absolutely reasonable. But make sure that your intended course of action suits your goals, maximizes your results, and puts you and your children in as strong a position as possible when the ink is dry on your final divorce decree.

For more information, or to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give us a call at 757-425-5200. There may be no such thing as free divorce, but if you communicate your goals and concerns, we can help you come up with a custom tailored plan of action designed to get you where you need to be.

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