Divorce costs in Virginia can be extremely high, reaching $10,000 or more. No wonder couples who would like to end their marriage are looking for possible ways to reduce divorce expenses or avoid spending money at all. This article will discuss the methods for decreasing legal divorce costs and available options for obtaining a free divorce in Virginia.
How to File for Divorce with No Money?
To start a divorce process in Virginia, you must first prepare case-specific forms. At this point, you need to decide whether you will complete divorce papers yourself, meaning there will be zero expenses, or reach out to a lawyer or online divorce services for assistance.
Lawyers’ help is usually costly, and prices may reach several thousand dollars depending on hourly rates and the time required to complete paperwork. Online divorce services are more affordable and typically charge less than $150 for document preparation, so they are suitable for spouses who want to save money when starting an uncontested divorce.
Once your forms are ready, you need to file for divorce in Virginia by submitting the papers to a local circuit court clerk, paying a filing fee of approximately $90. Though this fee is mandatory, according to the divorce law in Virginia, individuals that can’t afford to pay the sum can request a fee waiver. Of course, you’ll have to spend some time collecting documents that confirm your financial status, but this is a viable method of reducing divorce expenses.
When Can You Proceed Without a Lawyer?
Getting a divorce in Virginia is possible without seeking legal assistance if a case is an uncontested no-fault marriage dissolution where a couple has resolved all divorce-related issues. They need to complete a settlement agreement where all the divorce terms, including child-related matters, will be defined. The judge will then review this agreement and incorporate it into a final divorce decree.
In contested cases, lawyer’s fees comprise the lion’s share of all divorce expenses. For this reason, some spouses decide to opt for self-representation in court. However, such a decision may have many drawbacks that can hardly be justified. The amount of time, money, and effort they’ll have to spend to understand the legal intricacies of a divorce process, work on the complex paperwork, and involve third-party specialists will unlikely pay off in the end. Besides, the divorce proceedings may take years to finalize.
If you wonder if you should do your own divorce without a lawyer to decrease divorce costs, it is advisable to weigh all pros and cons and turn to this option if you start an amicable marriage dissolution.
How to Waive Court Fees?
If a person isn’t financially capable of paying court fees and can prove it by showing wage statements, tax returns, etc., they can request a fee waiver for divorce. The process is the following:
- Get the necessary forms. Go to the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where you will file for divorce. Request the appropriate forms for a fee waiver application.
- Fill out a waiver application. Complete an affidavit of indigency, indicating the requested information, and add documents to prove your financial hardship.
- File the application. Once your fee waiver application is ready, submit it to the court clerk’s office.
- Attend the hearing (if required). In some counties, a petitioner has to attend a court hearing and explain the financial problems in person. Other counties don’t require a petitioner to do so.
- Wait for the verdict. A judge will review the application and make a decision. If a fee waiver request is approved, you will be able to get out of paying divorce costs. Sometimes, a respondent may be obliged to help a petitioner pay court fees.
Where Do I Get a Free Divorce Papers in Virginia?
If you’ve decided to prepare divorce documents yourself, pay attention to the following websites. Remember that they don’t provide legal advice but allow divorcing couples to download divorce templates free of charge.
- Virginia Judiciary Website contains legal forms, including divorce forms. You can download and print them for free. However, these are universal templates, so they may be inappropriate for your particular divorce situation.
- Virginia Legal Aid is an organization that you can contact to get free divorce forms and filing instructions. Note that the provided guidelines and divorce forms are rather general and may miss something important for your case.
Divorce Options for Low-Income Families in Virginia
Types of divorce in Virginia have a direct impact on its cost. While contested cases can severely drain spouses’ budgets, uncontested divorces are more cost-efficient. Therefore, if possible, try to reach an agreement with your spouse without resorting to litigation. You can also significantly reduce divorce expenses if you choose the following options.
1. Do-It-Yourself Divorce
In a DIY divorce, you will have to manage all divorce processes without third-party expert assistance. This includes collecting and filling out papers, filing them with the clerk, serving your spouse, and even representing yourself in court if needed. A DIY divorce seems like a cheap way to end your marriage, but it entails many risks that can cause stress and regrets in the future.
2. Free Legal Aid Services
Families with low income can also contact organizations that provide free legal aid for divorce. Experts can give you legal advice, help with the preparation and filing of necessary documents, and represent you in court if required. If you consider this option, you first need to determine what qualifies you for legal aid. Typically, such services are aimed at helping people that apply for an amicable divorce. They rarely participate in highly contested proceedings.
Besides, free legal aid providers will prioritize serving vulnerable populations, such as victims of domestic violence, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.
3. Online Divorce Services
Another way to start a cheap uncontested divorce is to delegate paperwork to online divorce services. These are credible companies that will prepare all the needed forms in accordance with your case specifics. You just have to fill out a questionnaire and download the completed documents once ready.
Though you won’t receive completely free legal divorce papers, you will still have to pay much less for document preparation than when hiring a lawyer for this work. You can also avoid stress and anxiety, which usually appear when dealing with paperwork if you choose a DIY marriage dissolution.
So, if you are looking for the quickest, simplest, and cheapest way to divorce in Virginia, contacting an online service is a great choice. The only thing to keep in mind is that such companies usually assist with filling out documents for fully uncontested, no-fault divorces.
Filing for divorce in Virginia with no money can be challenging yet possible. Besides, there are several ways to reduce divorce expenses to filing fees only. Of course, there is no universal solution for every divorce case, but using the recommendations provided above, you can finalize your divorce without spending much money.
Paul Bennett is an author and a recurring columnist for a range of legal advisory blogs. Leveraging his past experience as a family law attorney, in his articles, Paul brings a unique understanding of the legal intricacies of divorce. His goal is to help those facing the breakdown of their marriage get through the complexities of ending it with a clear plan and awareness.