(BA, MBA, JD)
Attorney at Law
Lieutenant Robinson, U.S. Navy Flight Instructor, 1992
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 1999 by Ronald Robinson.
Once you or your spouse have legal grounds for a Virginia "no-fault" divorce (Either a 6 month separation where the parties have a separation agreement and no minor children or a 12 month separation if you have minor children), then most of the time it can take as little as 3 to 6 weeks from the actual filing of the divorce to the actual receipt of a signed final divorce decrees IF all issues (assets, debts, custody, visitation, spousal support, child support, etc.) are settled in a good, written settlement agreement and your spouse cooperates in the divorce process by signing a waiver. Some of the time differential depends upon the procedures of the jurisdiction in which your Virginia divorce is filed and the extent and speed of your spouse's cooperation.
As for contested divorces, if there is no settlement and the parties go all the way to a full and final trial, then it might take anywhere from 8 to 15 months.
In my personal opinion, the most important part of a Virginia divorce is settling or resolving all issues of asset/debt division (house, pensions, financial accounts, credit cards, etc), child custody, child visitation, child support, and spousal support in a way so that you minimize your chances of ever having to return to the lawyers or court again. This is best accomplished by a thoughtful, high quality, comprehensive, written, marital settlement agreement (MSA) between the husband and wife. This is NOT something you will find for $99.99 on the internet, nor is it something that a Virginia divorce lawyer can do in a single consultation, nor is it something you should draft yourself. The old adage "You can pay me now or you can pay me later" comes to mind. A poorly considered or poorly drafted settlement agreement drastically increases the likelihood that you will damage your interests and/or end up back in court in the near future anyway.
As with most things in life, it depends. The cost is lowest if the parties agree on all important issues early in the process (uncontested matter) or very expensive if it takes one or more court hearings to resolve the issues. In my experience, the attorney fees required to work on and achieve an uncontested (you and your spouse agree on all issues), comprehensive, high quality, written marital settlement agreement (MSA) and a "no-fault" Virginia divorce should normally range from $1,500 to $3,500 dollars IF BOTH PARTIES ARE REASONABLE, RATIONAL AND FAIR. Remember, it's rarely the divorce (no longer being married) that is so costly. It's resolving the issues in a divorce (custody, visitation, debts, assets, support, etc.) that can take so much time . . . yours and the lawyers. If you and your spouse don't resolve the issues, the judge will . . . at great expense to you and your spouse.
In my own experience, most contested cases (whether it's one or multiple unsettled issues) that go all the way or very close to trial will likely cost somewhere between $20,000 to $50,000 dollars for each party. The variance depends upon such factors as whether you actually go to trial, which issues are contested, how close you get to trial, the amount of discovery conducted (interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admission, depositions, subpoenas, and other litigation tools), the number of witnesses involved, and the cooperativeness (or lack of) of the opposing party/lawyer. In short, the closer you get to a contested trial, the more you spend.
It takes substantial information (financial and personal) for a Virginia lawyer to properly advise you on what your rights may be, what outcomes you may expect in court, and what you should "settle" for out of court. In a contested case, the formal (and expensive) legal process for obtaining some of this information from the opposing party is called Discovery. It includes interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admission, depositions, subpoenas and other litigation tools. There are cheaper and informal ways of obtaining much of this information if the parties cooperate. To begin the process, your Virginia divorce lawyer will probably have a questionnaire for you to complete and a list of documents to provide.
In my opinion, you should start with a phone or office consultation with a Virginia divorce lawyer for no less than one hour, but two hours or more is very common. You should expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $700 for a thorough, high quality consultation where personalized legal advice is given, not just general "legal information." Beware of "free" consultations being offered on Virginia divorce or family law matters. You usually get what you pay for.
Note: Unless you're a person who feels comfortable performing heart surgery after doing "a little internet research", then do not attempt your own settlement or divorce before having had at least one good, long consultation with a Virginia divorce lawyer. Dollar for dollar, it's the best money you'll spend on your family matter.
You sure can. Some people cannot raise the money to pay for a lawyer. Additionally, the courts are making it easier for people to handle their case "pro se" (without lawyers). Be very careful though. Remember that the laws and court cases regarding Virginia divorce and divorce-related issues are voluminous and often very complicated. If someone (or a website) tells you that it's simple or easy, they are l-y-i-n-g to you. A divorce is not a speeding ticket, so do NOT act without a Virginia divorce lawyer unless you absolutely have no other choice (i.e. you are dirt poor and cannot beg or borrow the money for a lawyer). General Rule of Thumb -- If you can't pay a lawyer to handle your entire divorce, then pay a lawyer to help draft your settlement. And if you can't pay a lawyer to help draft your settlement, then at least pay a lawyer for a good, long consultation.
In a nutshell, mediation is a process where a trained and neutral person, without deciding issues or imposing a solution, helps two parties reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their issues. Mediation is NOT appropriate for everyone or in every situation. In my experience, most people seek mediation to try to save money on lawyers and avoid court hearings. Make sure you know that: 1) a mediated settlement agreement affects and can severely limit your legal rights, 2) a mediator does not necessarily provide legal advice, 3) you must have the opportunity to consult with a lawyer at any time and you should be encouraged to do so, and 4) you should have the draft mediated settlement agreement reviewed by a Virginia divorce and family lawyer BEFORE YOU SIGN. If you and your spouse wish to mediate with Mr. Robinson, click here for the mediation request form.
Copyright © 1999 by Ronald Robinson. All rights reserved.
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