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Cost of Divorce in VA: A Complete Guide

In this guide, we share the average cost of divorce in Virginia and explain what factors can make a divorce more or less expensive than the average.

evident Editorial Team
March 15, 2024
Norfolk Virginia skyline and water

Getting divorced in Virginia can be a complex and emotionally challenging experience. On top of everything else involved, individuals often find themselves wondering about the financial aspects of the process.

A question that frequently comes up is, "How much does a divorce cost in Virginia?"

While costs can vary from one divorce to another, certain factors impact the overall cost in predictable ways. Understanding what these factors are and how they impact the cost of divorce in VA can help alleviate some of the stress involved in the process.

In this article, we will:

  • Explain the factors that affect the cost of divorce in VA
  • Share data on the average cost of divorce in VA
  • Highlight resources for individuals interested in lower-cost divorce options

To begin, let's take a look at the average cost of divorce in Virginia.

Key Takeaways

Average Cost of Divorce in Virginia

The average cost of a divorce in VA is reported to be around $14,500 for divorces without children and $21,800 for cases involving children, based on data from USA Today.

The actual cost of a divorce in Virginia can vary significantly, of course, and it's important to remember that these figures are just averages.

Divorce cases are highly individualized, and many factors affect the cost of any given divorce. For example, even these average figures reveal that divorces involving minor children are usually more expensive than those that don’t involve children. 

Understanding the factors that affect overall divorce costs is crucial for getting a sense of how much your divorce case might cost. 

What affects the cost of divorce in VA?

So, how much is a divorce in VA? The answer depends in large part on several critical factors and the specific circumstances of a given divorce case.

Costs involved in most divorce cases in Virginia include:

  • Filing fees
  • Other court costs
  • Attorney fees

Understanding these costs is helpful because they directly impact Virginia divorce costs. 

However, there are also thematic factors that have a huge impact on the cost of a Virginia divorce -- specifically, how complicated the divorce is and how contentious the divorce is. 

Let's take a closer look at each of these factors below, beginning with the filing fee to start a divorce case.

Virginia Divorce Filing Fees and Court Costs

The filing fee for divorce in Virginia can vary by county but is usually between $80 and $110.

For instance, in Fairfax County, the court filing fees are $86 to file for divorce or $108 to file for Divorce/Resume Maiden Name.

After initiating the divorce case, there may be additional fees for filing other motions or divorce paperwork. Those court fees also sometimes vary by county, so be sure to confirm the filing fees and court costs in your local county.

There is also a fee to serve the divorce papers on your ex-spouse if you are the first to file. In Fairfax County, though, it only costs $12 to have the Sheriff serve the papers. 

Fee waivers in Virginia

If you cannot afford to pay the Virginia divorce filing fee, you can ask for a fee waiver. To apply, you must submit this form to the court: Petition for Proceeding in Civil Case Without Payment of Fees or Costs.

The judge must approve your petition, and you should check to confirm the procedure for seeking a fee waiver with your local court. 

How much does a divorce lawyer cost in Virginia?

For many Virginia divorces, attorneys' fees constitute a significant portion of the total costs. 

There are two primary ways that a Virginia divorce attorney will usually charge for their services: hourly rates or flat fees. 

When a divorce attorney charges an hourly rate, the client is billed based on the time the lawyer spends on the case. Note that divorce attorneys who charge hourly rates often request retainer fees. (A retainer fee is an upfront payment for the attorney's services from which they deduct their legal fees and other expenses).

A flat fee, on the other hand, is a fixed charge for the lawyer's services that is set in advance. Flat fees are more common for more straightforward divorces or limited engagements. For instance, a divorce attorney may be more likely to charge a flat fee for an uncontested divorce, while contested divorces with uncertain timelines are better suited for hourly rates.

pros and cons of different billing methods

The billing method that makes sense for your VA divorce case will depend upon the circumstances of your divorce, your preferences as the client, as well as the attorney’s preferences. 

Average Divorce Lawyer Rates in VA

Returning to our question: how much does a divorce lawyer cost in Virginia? The average hourly rate for Family Law lawyers in Virginia is $328 per hour. (For context, divorce falls under the broader legal practice area of Family Law).  

Again, though, this is just the average hourly rate, and actual rates vary depending on several factors, including the attorney's experience and local rates in your area. For example, rates are usually higher in bigger metro areas like Virginia Beach than in other parts of the state.

Keep in mind that while it is helpful to know the average hourly rates, the amount of time a divorce lawyer spends on your case will have a bigger impact on their total costs. (I.e. the $328 hourly rate is less meaningful than whether the attorney bills you for 10 hours of work or 100 hours). 

This brings us to two critical thematic factors affecting the cost of divorce in Virginia: 

  • How complicated the divorce is
  • How contentious the divorce is 

How Complicated Your Virginia Divorce Is

maze, labyrinth, solution

Overall, the more complicated a divorce is, the more expensive it probably will be.  

We will identify a few of the things that can make a VA divorce more complicated, but a crucial threshold question is whether the divorce is uncontested or contested. 

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce In VA

An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, including:

  • Alimony (often called spousal support in Virginia)
  • Property division
  • Child custody 
  • Child support

An uncontested divorce in VA is typically faster, simpler, and cheaper than a contested divorce. So, how much does an uncontested divorce cost in Virginia? It can vary, but the cost of an uncontested divorce in Virginia typically revolves around court costs and filing fees, considerably lowering the overall cost.

On the other hand, contested divorces are usually far more expensive. A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree on one or more divorce-related issues. (For instance, if you and your ex-spouse agree on all issues except for one, it would still be a contested divorce). 

How much does a contested divorce cost in Virginia? Generally, far more than uncontested divorces, but the number of outstanding issues and the extent of disagreement surrounding them influence the total cost.

Factors That Make Divorce More Complicated

Numerous factors can increase the complexity of a Virginia divorce, leading to increased costs. 

  • Minor children –- Divorces involving minor children are generally more complicated than those without because issues such as child custody and support must be addressed. 
  • Large or complex marital estates –- Complicated marital assets, like ownership interests in companies or partnerships, might require appraisals, which can complicate property division. And overall, larger marital estates are more challenging to divide than smaller ones.
  • Alimony / Spousal Support –-  Not every divorce involves an alimony award, so it can add complexity to divorces where it is an issue.
  • Fault vs. No-fault divorce -- Most VA divorces are filed based on no-fault grounds, which makes the divorce less complicated because neither party has to prove the other spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. But fault divorce is an option in Virginia, and such divorces are more complicated.

Each of these factors can create a more complicated divorce process and, therefore, increase the overall cost of divorce in VA. 

Furthermore, each of these factors can create areas of disagreement, which connects to our next factor: the contentiousness of a divorce case.

How Contentious Your Virginia Divorce Is

breakup, divorce, separation

The contentiousness of a divorce can also greatly impact the overall cost. Contentious divorces are usually more expensive, sometimes leading to hard-fought court battles that rack up attorney's fees and other expenses.

Whenever possible, adopting a collaborative approach with your ex-spouse can provide significant benefits in reducing the time and cost of a Virginia divorce. Even in areas of disagreement, working cooperatively and striving to find common ground can yield more efficient and cost-effective outcomes.

Collaborative processes, including divorce mediation, are useful alternatives that can facilitate reaching agreements outside the courtroom. Through these methods, you can often keep lawyer fees and overall court costs lower, leading to a simpler and more amicable process.

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in VA

money, coins, stack

There are resources and lower-cost alternatives that can help minimize divorce expenses for people who are concerned about how much the process might cost.

Limited-scope representation can be a helpful option if it would be too expensive to hire a divorce attorney for your entire case. Under a limited-scope agreement, a divorce attorney can assist with specific tasks, like reviewing a divorce settlement agreement or attending divorce mediation. Thus, you get the benefit of expert guidance in the areas you need it most without having to pay the full cost of comprehensive legal representation.

Meanwhile, Legal Aid organizations offer free or low-cost legal services based on individuals' income level and legal needs. VA Legal Aid connects eligible Virginians with resources and assistance when able.

Finally, remember that fee waivers may be available for people who would be economically burdened by the filing fees associated with a Virginia divorce.