What is Custody in Accordance With the Laws of Virginia?
It is important for parents to understand there are two categories of custody. There is legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means the right to make important decisions for the child when it comes to their health, education, and welfare. Legal custody can be sole or joint. Physical custody means where the child spends a majority of their time.
Physical custody can take the form of sole physical care to one parent, with visitation rights to the other parent, or shared physical care.
Yes, it does cost money to file for guardianship in Virginia, the following are some of the expenses required (keep in mind these values are not accurate and the prices range as each firm has its own costs):
- Legal fees start around $3,000-$5,000 for a relatively simple minor guardianship case but could be quite a bit less if both parents are in relative agreement and can settle out of court. However, legal costs can jump to $5,500-$35,000 or more for a guardianship battle that includes taking depositions, hiring experts to testify, extensive “discovery” in the other parent’s records, and lots of time preparing for and holding a trial.
- Because guardianship cases are unpredictable in terms of complications and length, most family law attorneys charge fees based on hourly rates of $75-$400, although some attorneys charge as much as $500 an hour, according to the book “Child guardianship Made Simple”, time in court is usually charged at a higher rate than for an office consultation. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for a specific, straightforward process, such as the paperwork needed for an uncontested change in the guardianship arrangement.
- Legal fees are usually paid in advance in a payment known as a retainer. If the attorney is working on an hourly basis, charges for the hours worked by an attorney or office staff will be deducted from the retainer as the work is done; if the retainer is used up you will be billed for an additional pre-payment.
Additional costs in Virginia
- Books explaining the child guardianship system range from $12-$100.
- Some lawyers may include filing fees or other court costs ($5-$250 or more) and other expenses (copying, postage, messengers, paralegal time, etc.) in their legal fees but other attorneys charge separately for these. Get a written estimate of anticipated “other” costs.
- Working with a mediator to create a custody agreement (without going to trial) could cost $80-$250 an hour, for two or more hours of work; this fee is usually split by both parties.
- The initial consultation to discuss your case may be free or it could be charged at the attorney’s hourly rate; ask before you go.
- Discounts in Virginia
- Many states have programs granting fee waivers (for filing fees and other court costs) to low-income people. You may also qualify for Legal Aid or other free or low-cost assistance.
- Shopping for a child custody attorney in Virginia
- Ask family and friends for feedback on local family law attorneys. Contact several, and ask about each one’s training and experience in family law.
- Your attorney should provide you with a written fee agreement. Be sure you understand what is covered, and any other fees and expenses you might have to pay.