One of the questions that we get asked is how much does a divorce lawyer cost in Virginia or that we get through Google is how much does a divorce lawyer cost in VA? Unfortunately there is no right answer but there are some factors to consider.
Like any profession, lawyers and attorneys charge different rates. Whether it is hourly rates or flat fees there are no “set costs” or “suggested retail price” for lawyers and law firms. So when asked “how much does a divorce lawyer cost in VA” that answer is “it depends”.
Divorces are usually done with an hourly fee structure and the payment of a retainer. Think of a retainer as a checking account – an amount that is paid to the law firm being held for work or expenses performed on your behalf. So once the retainer is paid the lawyer or law firm can only pull money out of that retainer as earned or needed (sorry for the oversimplification). How the retainer is spent is usually governed by the contract for services signed between you and the law firm. Now the way it usually works for divorce lawyers as well as other types of retained matters is that if the case is over and there is money left on the account, then the client is entitled to a refund. If work is on-going and the retainer has been exhausted, then you will have to make a payment. How much that payment is and when it is due is, again, part of the contract for services.
So the next question is usually how much of a retainer does a divorce lawyer require? Again, it depends. Some firms have standard amounts while others tend to be more fact driven by the facts of the divorce provided at the consultation. Be careful with this situation and you are allowed to ask if the retainer requested is a standard amount or specific to your case. Personally we have a standard amount that we ask for on all of our divorce cases. We do this because we do not want clients believing or even thinking that they are treated like a cash register and that the more money they have the more we charge. We also do this because no matter which attorney you speak with you will get a consistent answer.
The next thing that people look at is the hourly rates of divorce lawyers. Again, this also depends. It can depend upon a variety of factors but usually experience is the predominant one. Quite often, the more experienced the attorney the higher the rates. The problem is that there is no real consistency for lawyers with the same amount of experience. Quite often there are less experienced lawyers who are charging more than more experienced lawyers. A fair question to ask is how the lawyer came to put a value on his/her services.
Another factor to consider is the cost of staff for divorce lawyers. Most lawyers have secretaries, assistants, paralegals, runners, couriers, office managers, etc., who help him/her get things done. These folks want to get paid for their time when they go to work each day. It would be unfair to the client to charge the hourly rate for the divorce lawyer when the work is performed by someone else. So to manage the situation, most contracts or agreements account for “staff” or the non-lawyer hourly rates. These are usually less than the hourly rates of the lawyers and, since most of the non-lawyering work is done by them, those savings can be passed on to the client.
The next question that should be asked of divorce lawyers when trying to figure out if how much it costs is actually asking about costs. Now the “costs” that I am talking about are hard costs. How much for postage, how much are filing fees, how much are copies, etc. These need to be addressed and don’t be shy about asking about it. For example, if the firm operates digitally for the most part and documents are scanned in, is there a charge for this? Are you being charged per scan plus the time of the person scanning?
Lastly, you should ask how you are billed. This encompasses two parts. The first is how the billable time is broken down. By this, are you billed at 1/10th of an hour increments, 1/4 or 1/3 of an hour? Is there a minimum time for matters despite how long they actually take or it takes to perform the task? The second is when am I billed for stuff? This is usually the easy one and most consistent one. It is normally this simple – if someone is working on your matter then you are probably getting billed for it. That makes perfect sense. It is also quite simple and fair. You would not want to be billed when someone is working on another person’s file and vice versa.
This is about the best advice that we can provide for people that want to know how much a divorce lawyer costs in Virginia. While we can speak for our office, we cannot speak for others. So I guess the purpose of this post is to provide you an understanding so going into the consultation and hiring the divorce lawyer you have more education. We hope that we have at least given you something to think about even though we may not have answered your question with this post.
We hope that this answered any questions that you may have or at least give you a starting point for what questions to ask. If you would like to discuss this further, feel free to give us a call at 757-909-9737 or use our Contact Form at www.stepuptobat.com/consult to set up a free consultation with a lawyer about your situation.
Also we have other blog posts about divorce and the divorce process. Feel free to read them and if you have questions let us know!