A contested divorce presents a significant emotional and legal challenge for both parties involved. It is a process that extends beyond the dissolution of marriage, encompassing critical issues such as child custody, property division, and financial support. The adversarial nature of this type of divorce can escalate existing tensions, leading to a complex legal battle that may have enduring effects on personal well-being and familial relationships. The progression of such a contested divorce can intensify these difficulties, particularly when individuals face the legal system without adequate representation. There is no need for you to go it alone. The Norfolk contested divorce attorneys at the firm of Montagna Law are here for you, and we are dedicated to representing your interests assertively so that your voice is heard throughout the legal process.
When spouses are in agreement to end the marriage, it is called an uncontested divorce or a no-fault divorce. A contested divorce, however, is when neither of the two involved parties can agree on the divorce. In this type of divorce, other factors (called grounds) must be provided to move forward.
There are several grounds that may lead to a contested divorce in Norfolk. You may experience one or more of these in your own divorce proceedings, and knowing how each one will affect your case will be essential to help you avoid surprises.
To start, when filing a divorce petition, you will need to provide a reason or the legal grounds for why you are seeking this divorce. Here are the possible grounds for a contested divorce in Norfolk.
The grounds of cruelty typically involve fear of violence or actual domestic violence against you. If you use these grounds for your divorce, you must be able to prove that you experience a reasonable fear of harm to your physical or mental well-being. Proof of one injurious incident or cumulative acts that bring fear or harm can often be sufficient to prove the grounds of cruelty.
When claiming adultery, you are stating that your spouse participated in sexual intercourse with someone other than you and without your consent. At trial, you will need to provide adequate proof of this adultery so that it can stand as grounds for a divorce. When there is only circumstantial evidence in this particular instance, it can lengthen the divorce process overall, and in particular, when it comes to the determination of alimony.
It is important to note here that if, after learning of the adultery, you continue to live with your spouse, you cannot use these grounds for divorce. Also, if the adultery took place over five years before filing, it cannot be used. If you have questions, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable Norfolk divorce lawyer when filing under the grounds of adultery.
If your spouse intentionally leaves the marriage against your wishes, and the intent is to make this departure permanent, the grounds for a divorce can be abandonment. You will need to keep in mind, however, that if the two of you agree to separate at some point, neither of you can make allegations of abandonment at a later date in order to seek divorce.
The grounds of desertion are often considered the same as abandonment. To use desertion in your contested divorce, however, as the filing spouse, you must prove two things: (1) the intent of the deserting spouse was to bring an end to the marriage, and (2) such desertion went against the wishes of the other spouse.
When a spouse is convicted of a felony and receives a jail or prison sentence, this can serve as grounds for a contested divorce. The sentencing must carry a confinement of at least one year. Also, if the spouses return to cohabitating, the grounds for divorce will become null.
When couples cannot come to an agreement on the terms of a divorce, it is considered a contested divorce and heads to court for resolution. A contested divorce also comes into play when a spouse has reason to suspect the other of hiding assets or income and fails to include these in the division of marital property. The process involves the following main steps.
The first step for a contested divorce is for one spouse to file a complaint. Within this complaint, you must state the specific grounds for divorce, whether it be adultery, cruelty, abandonment, desertion, or a criminal felony conviction. Once the complaint is filed with the local Circuit Court, you must ensure a copy of the complaint is served upon the other spouse. You will need to have documentation proving service as well.
The receiving spouse (defendant) has 21 days from being served to file an answer to the complaint, responding to any allegations included in the complaint. They can also file a cross complaint, which the plaintiff must respond to within 21 days.
Discovery occurs during a specific timeframe, with both parties delving into fact-finding and the compilation of evidence in order to prepare for going to trial. Types of tools for this stage of the process include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and subpoenas.
With completion of the discovery phase by both sides, it is time to request a trial date. Court dockets fill up quickly, and your divorce case will most likely not receive a date until approximately six to nine months after your request, depending on your particular location.
Once at trial, which typically lasts one to two days, depending on the complexity of the case, opening statements will be made by your Norfolk divorce attorney, followed by witness testimonies and the presentation of evidence for the judge to consider. After closing statements, the judge will consider everything presented before making a final decision.
After considering everything presented at trial, the judge will issue a divorce order. This divorce order is the judge’s final ruling in your case and can take weeks or months to completely finalize.
While the above is the general framework for the contested divorce process, there may be various hearings between steps to make determinations on particular issues, such as temporary spousal support or custody and visitation agreements for minor children. A dedicated Norfolk family law attorney will be knowledgeable in each of these areas, as well as in Virginia law, and this will be beneficial to your case.
While a no-fault divorce can be relatively quick, a contested divorce can take several months or longer in a courtroom. Every contested divorce is different and may involve more than one ground for divorce, as well as other factors that can extend the time required to reach a satisfactory outcome. For example, some of the factors that can cause divorce proceedings to take much longer to finalize include:
Also, multiple negotiations may be necessary depending upon your particular circumstances. Court dockets are often full, pushing the hearing of your case further out than expected. Add to this the fact that the judge may need weeks or months to review all the evidence presented at trial to make a final decision, and you may be waiting a long time to finalize your divorce.
Whatever your particular circumstances, having an attorney knowledgeable in Virginia divorce law will help you stay connected and in the loop of all happenings so that you can manage your expectations. The Norfolk family law attorneys at Montagna Law will keep you informed at every stage of the process and prepare you for each step that comes next.
During your divorce, you will want to stay involved in all aspects of the process. Your legal team will discuss potential issues surrounding your divorce and take the time to walk you through your options and potential outcomes. Four of the most important aspects of the divorce process, in particular, are child custody, child support, alimony, and division of property.
When it comes to determining child custody, the court will focus on what is in the best interest of the child before making a decision. Many factors will need to be taken into consideration, especially when it involves a contested divorce where custody may be in dispute. Examples of such factors include the child’s age, each parent’s home environment, the particular needs of the child, and each parent’s role to date in the life of that child.
When a divorce is contested, spouses can argue about custody arrangements, and this can prolong the proceedings. At times, the court may even assign a guardian ad litem for the child to make sure their best interests are considered. In the end, the judge will determine what custody will look like going forward. Options include joint legal custody, where both parents share in the responsibilities and decision-making concerning education, medical care, and religion. Other possibilities include sole legal custody, where only one parent makes the care and welfare decisions for the child, and the other spouse only retains partial physical custody.
For this part of the divorce proceedings, legal representation will be imperative to your case so that your child receives what is needed when parents no longer wish to stay together.
Virginia law definitively states that both parents are responsible for providing for the financial welfare of their child. In other words, both must support the child’s financial needs. When determining who is to receive child support and how much that support will be, the court will consider the total income each parent brings in, what the child-sharing schedule will be, and any other factors necessary.
Alimony, or spousal support, is an award to one spouse who is shown to need financial assistance as they transition to life outside of marriage and away from the dependency on the other spouse. Many factors can go into calculating the actual amount, and knowing beforehand what to expect during this process will be important to your future.
The division of marital property, depending upon volume, can take time to determine. Marital property is that which the couple accumulated after marriage. In other words, it is any mutually acquired property or assets during the course and duration of that marriage. Virginia is an equitable distribution state, and this means that the court will conduct property division in a fair way, but it will not necessarily be equal or a 50/50 even split between the spouses.
Factors that will be considered when making this division of property include:
A Norfolk contested divorce attorney can help identify all marital assets and fight for your fair share once the marriage is over. They can also determine if any individual assets acquired by the other spouse prior to marriage or as an inheritance can be included in this division of property. In addition, your attorney will look for any hidden assets that may not be part of the reported marital property.
If you are going through a contested divorce in Norfolk, Virginia, it is likely that your spouse will be seeking legal representation. As such, you need to be sure you are also adequately represented so it is a fair proceeding. The Norfolk divorce lawyers at Montagna Law are experienced when it comes to contested divorces and all matters of Virginia family law and will be by your side throughout the entire process. Partner with us and let our years of experience and thorough knowledge of Virginia law help you through this trying time, whatever it may involve.
With decades of experience providing legal services and helping contested divorce clients throughout the Hampton Roads region, we value the attorney-client relationship. If you are still wondering why you should partner with Montagna Law for your Norfolk divorce, consider what our clients are saying about our law firm.
For one, many clients report that they appreciate our accessibility, with their ability to call with any questions or concerns or for explanations of legal concepts and more. In addition, we constantly treat our clients with compassion and respect, knowing that divorces can be troubling times for all family members.
A few recent quotes from clients include the following:
“The most distinguishable thing to notice about Montagna law is their humane approach to clients.”
“[My attorney] never failed to respond to any of my queries.”
For more details on what our clients have to say about working with Montagna Law in all our practice areas, check out the testimonials on our website.
When it comes to divorce, the process can be overwhelming. Whether you have specific grounds for the divorce, such as adultery, or have minor children you need to provide for and protect, you need someone on your side to help navigate the process.
For this, seek the legal advice, guidance, and representation of a Norfolk divorce attorney with the law firm of Montagna Law today. From the separation agreement to final divorce decree, we will be with you all the way through whatever family law matters you must face. Get started today by scheduling an appointment through our online contact form or by calling 877-622-8100 as soon as possible.
In addition to serving clients in Norfolk, we also serve clients throughout the Hampton Roads region, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, and Suffolk.
Jon Montagna received a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from American University in Washington D.C. and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999. Jon practices law in the Hampton Roads Virginia area.