Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful events of a person’s life, and navigating Virginia’s legal system to process it only adds extra frustration to an already trying situation. The divorce process in the state is complex and tumultuous, but you do not have to embark on this endeavor alone. With a divorce lawyer who can empathize with your position and offer legal advice, you can equip yourself to go through your separation and fight for the outcome you deserve.
In Virginia, a final decree of divorce is the final step in the divorce process. The official court order ultimately ends the marriage and completes the divorce case. Divorce decrees contain a wide variety of information by design to allow parties to make changes down the line if they wish and enforce certain agreements after the divorce is finalized.
The process to reach the final decree of divorce is relatively straightforward:
To obtain a final decree of divorce, you will have to meet a multitude of requirements first. While your divorce may not involve all the potentially applicable factors, it is still important to know what could affect the proceedings.
To get divorced in Virginia, you or your spouse must be a Commonwealth of Virginia resident for at least six months before you file the initial divorce petition.
You will need to file an official complaint to get divorced, which should contain the specific grounds for why your divorce should be allowed. You must include details about the marriage, the people in it (including addresses, Social Security numbers, and name change requests), and the separation length.
You need to be separated for at least six months to file for divorce in Virginia if you have no minor children. If you do have children who are minors, the separation period is extended to a year. Your case may be dismissed if you file before meeting the separation period requirement with a separation agreement.
Filing for divorce comes with fees, which you must pay for the divorce to proceed. Additionally, your case will be assigned a civil number that must be included on all subsequent documents relevant to your case.
After filing your divorce complaint, you must serve your spouse with papers detailing the complaint. Afterward, they will have 21 days to reply.
A no-fault divorce is typically quicker to resolve because there are fewer issues to contest. At-fault divorces take longer, as they tend to be more complicated overall.
If you and your spouse have any minor children, the judge will rule on custody based on the best interests of the child. Additionally, having minor children extends the separation period from six months to one year.
To get a divorce decree of reference, you must submit evidence of all your complaints regarding the divorce and your allegations. This is much simpler with uncontested divorces.
After receiving a report from the Commissioner in Chancery, you can file a final decree of divorce that will summarize all the information in your complaint and the commissioner’s recommendations.
If the divorce is uncontested, you and your spouse can present the case before a judge, who will then enter the final decree if you have met all the requirements.
Divorce can be filed on several grounds in the state of Virginia, including the following:
The main factor to consider when determining how long a divorce will take is whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. With an uncontested divorce, the entire process could be over in just a few weeks, assuming both parties have already met the separation requirements. It takes about four to six weeks for the judge to get to your case on the docket after you file your final decree.
Keep in mind that the separation requirement for an uncontested divorce is six months if you do not have minor children and one year if you do have minor children. Make sure you meet this requirement first before filing for divorce.
If you are going through a contested divorce, the time frame may be much longer, depending on how many assets you plan on contesting. Asset distribution is essential to any divorce, and particularly complex cases can take more than a year to resolve fully.
If you have a straightforward, uncontested no-fault divorce case, you may be able to handle it independently. Virginia has a do-it-yourself solution available online in accordance with the code of Virginia § 20-106. It comes with instructions and will screen out cases too complex for the automated system to resolve.
While the online solution may seem appealing, it is not always the best option. The online system relies on simplicity and cannot be used in complex cases or cases where substantial assets are at stake.
A DIY divorce offers the benefit of being fast and easy, but it only applies if your case is easy to begin with. The precise qualifications are as follows:
Many divorce cases do not meet the qualifications for a DIY divorce, so you may benefit from the services of a Virginia divorce lawyer. They can help you pursue fair compensation and an equitable splitting of assets between you and your spouse. Their legal representation is professional and organized, which is crucial when pursuing fair agreements regarding housing and custody of minor children.
Child custody is determined by the court’s idea of what is in the child’s best interest. Additionally, Virginia law recognizes two kinds of child custody. The first is physical custody, which determines where the child gets to live. The second is legal custody, which affects the ability to make decisions for the child regarding things such as their health, education, and religious upbringing. When determining child custody in a divorce, judges have to consider the following factors of each parent in accordance with state law:
One of the most important factors to keep in mind along with your divorce is taxes. You need to file under the status of “single” once your divorce is finalized, and you may need to change your dependents based on the custody determinations in your case. Your custody agreement should specifically state who gets to claim the children on their taxes and for what period of time.
In terms of assets, Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means it strives to split assets fairly. Retirement accounts may be subject to division, so your spouse may be entitled to a portion of your retirement savings.
Alternatively, you could be entitled to half of their retirement savings. You must also consider the possibility of spousal support and child support. Support payments can significantly impact your financial situation, whether you are paying or being paid.
At Montagna Law, our law firm has been working alongside the judges, legal professionals, and circuit court clerks of Norfolk for decades. With our experience, our divorce attorneys can offer legal advice and legal representation to those pursuing divorce, whether it is contested or uncontested, throughout the Hampton Roads area. Fill out our online contact form or call us at 877-622-8100 to begin.
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.