A Professional Corporation

5845 Richmond Highway, Suite 800
Alexandria, VA 22303

703-836-2770    |     703-836-9086

www.cottrellaw.com

Services

DIVORCE

Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences in life. Every aspect of you and your family’s lives are affected. Children, finances, jobs, home and extended family relationships are all impacted. Having attorneys who are experienced and understanding will ease the anxieties that arise during this difficult juncture of your life.

The dissolution of a marriage involves both the dissolution itself—whether by divorce or annulment, and the remedies the court can grant the parties as an incident of the dissolution. These remedies may include equitable distribution of the parties’ assets and debts acquired during the marriage, spousal support, child custody and visitation, child support, and related relief. Usually it is these remedies, rather than the divorce itself, that are the subject of significant dispute. The law governing what the court can or may do is complex and the judges who decide family law cases have wide discretion in implementing them. It is therefore crucial to have an attorney who is not only knowledgeable of the intricacies of the statutes and case law governing family law, but who is also experienced in presenting cases in the local court where your case will be litigated.

We pride ourselves in being available to our clients by email and phone and so each client can be made aware of whatever action has been taken the day it occurs so you are as up-to-date as possible on the status of your case.

CHILD CUSTODY AND PARENTAL ACCESS (VISITATION)

In Virginia, child custody and visitation decisions are governed by what the statute describes as the “best interests of the child.” In custody cases, the court considers factors such as the age and health condition of the child and each parent, the relationship between each parent and the child, the needs of the child, the role of each parent in the upbringing and care of the child, reasonable preference of the child, and more.

One of the most challenging issues in a divorce case is how your children will be affected by the outcome. It is necessary to establish a workable plan as to who has legal authority to make decisions on their behalf, as well as what is in the child’s best interest. How much time a child will spend with each parent is often difficult and wrought with emotion and the issues must be carefully weighed and determined. Our job is to listen carefully to your concerns and understand your family’s background to determine and develop a strategy for attaining what is best under your particular circumstances.

Our experienced attorneys will assist you to understand the factors considered by the court and work with you to create a custody and parental access schedule that is both in the best interest of your child and you. We have experience in handling all custody matters, including relocation to another county, state or country, child abduction domestically and internationally, including federal cases involving The Hague Treaty on International Child Abduction, emergency situations that involve mental health concerns, substance abuse and/or child abuse and many other difficult circumstances.

High Net Worth Divorce in Virginia

Families with high incomes and valuable assets present complex problems in the event of divorce. The classification of assets as separate or marital property will have a decisive impact on the equitable distribution award. To the extent that an asset is marital property, the parties must present evidence of the value of the property. The valuation and division of closely held business interests present numerous legal and practical considerations. Familiarity with the leading expert witnesses and their methodologies for valuation is a must. If any such assets are at issue in your case, you will need attorneys like those in our firm who are experienced with the intricacies of classification, valuation and division before Virginia courts.

APPEALS

Family law decisions made in the trial court can be reviewed by the Court of Appeals of Virginia. There is an extensive and evolving body of case law interpreting Virginia’s domestic relations statutes. Sometimes, a family law case presents a novel issue of law or a question of trial court discretion so stark as to raise the possibility of reversal by an appellate court. Other times your favorable result in a trial court may be put in jeopardy by an appeal brought by the opposing party. In either case, it is crucial to have an attorney who is experienced in appellate advocacy. An experienced appellate attorney can advise you on whether or not you have an issue that is a reasonable subject for appeal (not all adverse trial court decisions are appropriate for appellate review ), and will know how to present the appeal in accordance with the strict procedural rules applied in the appellate courts. Alternatively, an experienced appellate attorney can look for procedural and substantive weaknesses in the appeal brought by the other side and work to preserve your favorable judgment from the trial court.

Your first meeting with us - The initial consultation

1. How long is an initial consultation?

Initial consultations usually last one hour, unless more time is specifically requested prior to the consultation, or during the consultation.

2. How much does an initial consultation cost?

Initial consultations are charged at the hourly rate of the attorney with whom you have an appointment. Rates of the attorneys in the firm vary, so the cost depends on the individual attorney. Rates are available upon request.  Charges for initial consultations are due and payable at the conclusion of the conference.

3. How do I schedule an initial consultation?

You can call the attorney you desire to meet with directly, or speak with the attorney’s paralegal or secretary.

4. How do I make the most of my initial consultation and what should I bring with me?

You will obtain the maximum information and advice from your initial consultation if you bring the following:

  • A financial statement showing current assets and debts. Note any assets or property which you received through inheritance or by way of gift or bequest from someone other than your spouse, or are derived in whole or in part from pre-marital assets.
  • A short chronology of the marriage (e.g. date of marriage, names and dates of birth of children, purchases of major assets, and how problems leading to the dissolution of the marriage developed over time).
  • Current income information for both parties in the event that there is a spousal support or child support issue which must be addressed and calculated.
  • A list of specific questions that you would like to have answered during the conference.
  • If you have already been served with papers on behalf of your spouse, or if you are presently engaged in a divorce suit, or if you are in a modification or enforcement proceeding, bring copies of all correspondence, court papers, and documents you have received to date.
  • Any signed agreements, particularly pre-nuptial agreements should there be one between you and your spouse.
  • If you provide asset, debt, income, marital chronology documentation, court papers in ongoing suits, and a listing of your specific questions, so the attorney can better determine the issues involved, what will be required, and make sure that all of your questions are answered. Your prior preparation will make an efficient and thorough consultation possible.

5. Can you see me for an initial consultation if you have already seen my spouse?

No. If any attorney in the firm has seen your spouse for an initial consultation, we will be unable to meet with you since it will be considered a conflict of interest.

6. My spouse and I have reached an agreement and want someone to prepare it. Can you represent me and my spouse for this purpose?

No. Under no circumstances do we represent both parties. We represent only your interests and act as your advocate.

7. Once I have had an initial consultation with an attorney in the firm, does the firm represent me?

No. You must sign a written agreement and pay a fee security deposit to our firm to retain our services as your attorney.

8. How can I pay for an initial consultation, retainer, or my monthly bill?

Cash, Check, Wire transfers, Money Orders, Visa, or MasterCard are accepted.

9. How much is a typical retainer or security fee deposit amount?

The amount of the fee security deposit (retainer) varies with each case and depends on a variety of factors, including your attorney, the legal circumstances, and the nature of your situation. For example, an uncontested divorce will require a lesser fee security deposit amount compared to one that involves custody issues, support issues, asset valuation and distribution. The consulting attorney will discuss the amount with you at the end of the consultation after being fully apprised of your case.

10. How much does a divorce or other family law matter cost?

That depends on the complexity and nature of your case. There is no “flat rate” for a divorce because we cannot control the hours spent when our efforts are often affected by the actions of the other side.  At the conclusion of our representation, any money remaining in your security fee deposit will be promptly refunded to you.

11. If I retain the firm to represent me, how will my case be billed?

Cases are billed in increments of two-tenths of an hour at the rate of the attorney, paralegal, or law clerk working on your case at any given time. This is done in accordance with a detailed written contract for services referred to as the retainer agreement. The firm sends monthly statements to clients detailing billable hours charged and costs. 

12. What are examples of “costs”?

Costs consist of services required in your case.  This would include, but is not limited to, court reporters, copying charges, postage, couriers, private detectives, process servers, and experts.

13. Who is responsible for paying “costs”?

You are responsible for paying all costs associated with your case

14. Is there a way I can save money in my case?

Remaining fully engaged in your case and timely responsive and organized to our requests for information and answers will streamline our legal efforts and be more cost effective for you.

15. Will the attorney that I see for my initial consultation handle all aspects of my case?

Not necessarily. There are smaller tasks in every case that can be effectively and more economically handled by another attorney, paralegal, or law clerk. Your attorney may assign certain tasks to an assistant attorney, paralegal, or law clerk as he or she deems appropriate. The primary attorney in your case will handle major trials, hearings, and complicated motions, and other matters for which you specifically request his or her presence. The firm clients often have motions and other trial matters that may overlap in the same court or different courts.  For these scheduling conflicts you will be represented by a highly qualified attorney from our firm.

16. What should I do if I need to deliver something to my attorney?

Please call the office first to make sure that your attorney or your attorney’s paralegal is available. If you stop by the office unexpected to see your attorney or the paralegal, neither may be available. We are engaged in conferences and deadlines on a daily basis which do not always permit interruption. If you are unable to call in advance to schedule a brief appointment, please leave the information with the receptionist or the attorney’s assistance.

17. Do you settle cases?

Our primary goal is to settle cases amicably, whenever possible and consistent with your best interests. We recommend and encourage alternate dispute resolution such as mediation as a means of assuring privacy and reducing expense. Regrettably, some cases cannot be settled, and when that is the situation, we are ready for trial.

18. Are you aggressive?

We are as aggressive as a situation dictates. There are certain instances where aggression may be detrimental to your case. Our experience and professional judgment permits us to zealously represent you.

19. Do you handle cases in Maryland or D.C.?

No. We practice only in the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but we are happy and able to provide you with referrals.

20. If I have a general question about representation that has not been answered above, who can I ask?

E-mail your question to kstadden@cottrellaw.com for a prompt reply. Do not include confidential information or legal questions. In the subject line of your e-mail, please make the notation “General Question” so that your e-mail can be distinguished as one of importance.

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