The divorce process is challenging and often painful, no matter the circumstances. You might be relieved to be moving towards a new phase of your life, or you could be upset that the current phase is coming to an end. In either case, you will have a substantial amount of legal paperwork to fill out. Even an amicable, uncontested divorce requires you and your spouse to reach agreements on major family law issues like property division and child custody. You can negotiate these matters outside of the courtroom. You could use legal advice and other assistance from a skilled uncontested divorce attorney. Allow the experienced legal team at Montagna Law to help you reach a separation agreement and finalize your divorce. You may request a consultation with a member of our office today by calling (757) 622-8100 or completing the online contact form.
The divorce attorneys at Montagna Law are knowledgeable and resourceful family law advocates. They have over 50 years of experience, and they have helped hundreds of families deal with uncontested divorce challenges with compassionate and dedicated legal service. The team includes certified mediation experts who can help an uncontested divorce stay on a path to settlement.
The Virginia uncontested divorce process has three main requirements.
One or both spouses must have been Virginia residents for at least six months immediately prior to the date you file for divorce.
You and your spouse must agree on the “no-fault” ground for divorce. In a no-fault divorce, neither party is at fault for the breakup of the marriage. You must simply agree that the marriage is no longer working and you will not be able to reconcile. Virginia divorce law also allows divorce on fault-based grounds, but that typically requires a contested divorce.
A no-fault divorce in Virginia requires the spouses to have lived separately without cohabitation for a minimum period of time:
“Without cohabitation” means that you did not move back in with one another during the legal separation period with the intent of trying to reconcile.
You will need a settlement or separation agreement in order to complete the uncontested divorce process. You may incorporate the agreement into the final divorce decree. A judge will review your agreement to make sure everything complies with Virginia family law, especially if the case involves custody and support of minor children.
A separation agreement needs to address all of the major issues in your divorce case, such as:
The uncontested divorce process can be much faster than the procedures for a contested divorce. You and your spouse have control over the negotiation process. You are not bound to the court’s schedule, which could require you to wait months for a court appearance.
You must complete the required period of legal separation, which could be six months or one year, in order to get an uncontested divorce. Once that period is complete, the amount of time required to finalize the divorce depends on the following:
This part of the process may go very quickly, but a period of six to ten weeks to complete and file the paperwork and for the court to process everything is fairly common.
A major advantage of the uncontested divorce process over the process for contested divorces is that it is reasonably predictable. An experienced uncontested divorce lawyer can look at a case and estimate how much time it will require to negotiate an agreement, prepare the paperwork, and obtain the court’s approval to finalize the divorce. Many law firms, including Montagna Law, charge a flat fee for uncontested divorces.
Most divorce attorneys charge an hourly rate for contested divorces because of their unpredictable timetables. The average hourly fee for a Virginia divorce attorney is around $300. A case may require extensive court appearances along with negotiation and document preparation. The more the spouses want to fight, the more work the lawyers must do. A contested divorce could require dozens or even hundreds of hours of work by a lawyer. The total cost of a case is impossible to predict.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on the need for a divorce, and they have either reached a separation agreement or they are willing to work towards an agreement. They must be able to work out agreements on all of the legal matters in their divorce case without the need for court involvement, which may include the following:
The only time the court needs to get involved in an uncontested divorce is when the spouses have finalized a separation agreement and prepared a final divorce decree for the court to review. They may schedule a court appearance where one or both spouses present the divorce decree to the judge and offer brief testimony to establish that they meet all of the legal requirements for the divorce, such as residency. Instead of appearing in person and testifying, they may submit an affidavit along with the decree.
A contested divorce is any case in which the spouses disagree on some aspect of the divorce. One spouse may not want to get divorced at all, or the spouses may disagree on how to resolve some or all of the major legal issues.
A seemingly amicable divorce case can become contested when negotiations break down and court involvement is necessary. The spouses might have completed a detailed property settlement agreement, for example, but they cannot agree on child custody. In that case, they might present a partial separation agreement to the court while going to trial on the issues that are still in dispute.
A contested divorce that appears highly combative can become an uncontested divorce if the spouses are able to come to the table to work out their differences. Virginia courts encourage spouses in contested divorces to make every possible effort to reach a settlement agreement without the courts’ help. Judges tend to be thrilled when parties to a divorce cancel hearings or trials because they settled their case.
When spouses go through the uncontested divorce process, their separation agreement should cover everything they need to divide their marital property and debts. The court should not need to get involved, except to review the spouse’s agreement to make sure it follows Virginia law and is generally fair to both parties.
State law defines “marital property” as any property that either or both spouses acquired during the marriage, with some exceptions. Marital debt includes liabilities incurred by the spouses during the marriage. A spouse’s “separate property” consists of the following:
Virginia uses the “equitable distribution” system to divide marital assets and debts. If a court were to order a division of marital property, it would not have to divide the property exactly 50/50 between the spouses. The goal is to achieve a division that is fair to everyone. A court must consider numerous factors when deciding on property division, including:
Spouses involved in an uncontested divorce should keep these factors in mind when negotiating a property settlement agreement.
The divorce attorneys at Montagna Law have years of experience representing people in uncontested divorces and other legal matters in the Hampton Roads area, including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Suffolk. We will provide you with legal representation customized to your needs, whether it will be an uncontested or contested divorce proceeding. You may request a consultation with a member of our office today by calling (757) 622-8100 or completing the online contact form.
*The consult fee is $50 for up to ½ hr phone consults and $100 for up to 1 hr in-person consults. These consult fees are then applied to the retainer if the client retains us within 30 days of the initial consult.