Virginia divorce details
Uncontested VS Contested Divorce in Virginia
A Contested divorce - is a traditional long-term process, including several trials, heated debate of both spouses’ attorneys and mutual blaming. Typically, the purpose of a contested divorce is to divide a property or children custody, and each spouse has his/her opinion (the only correct) of exactly how to do it. During the process, the couple may not communicate at all, because their attorneys deal with all issues between themselves. No wonder, that a contested divorce is a pretty expensive venture, and court hearing are stressful and emotional.
An Uncontested divorce is a modern way to get a fast and easy divorce. The only final hearing is required, and co-operation between spouses is extremely important. Though it is not suitable for everyone, more and more couples dare to manage their divorce even without attorneys at all. If you have not any serious complaints about your spouse and there is not some ambiguous situation related to the valuable property an uncontested divorce can be a great choice.
Uncontested divorce in Virginia
Uncontested divorce implies that the spouses can reach an agreement about all main issues of their dissolution before filing for divorce. Sometimes, it means that they make a Separation agreement - an official, signed document, that resolves all issues related to child custody and parenting time, a division of property and real estate, spousal support if any is needed, and other. But sometimes, though the spouses haven’t such a written agreement, neither of them asks the court to address some significant issues. Such simple cases can be completed without the lawyer’s help. People choose this option to save time and money.
Grounds for Divorce in Virginia
Virginia laws allow getting a divorce, pointing both on Fault and No-fault grounds. The Fault grounds usually demand a contested divorce, and the No-fault means that the spouses have some conflict of interest and they just don’t want to remain married.
The only no-fault ground for divorce in VA is living separately for more than a year. But if the spouses entered into a Separation Agreement and they haven’t minor children, this case is simplified and they can get a divorce after living apart for 6 months. All you need to file for a No-fault divorce - the intention of one of the spouses. Virginia law will not force you to remain married.
Filing for the Fault-ground can delay your divorce process and impact its financial outcome. Among fault grounds for divorce in Virginia are:
- Adultery (the injured party must provide evidence)
- Cruelty and bodily harm (abusing conduct that caused physical or extreme emotional harm)
- Abandonment (one party leaves the other without the consent)
- Felony conviction (at least 1 year).
Virginia Residency Requirements to File for Divorce
To file for divorce with a Virginia court, one or both spouses must be actual residents of the state for 6 months or more before the date when divorce process started.
This rule also considers military members stationed in Virginia for at least six months to be residents of VA.
Notice, that you may file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse lives, or in the county of you last marital residence.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Virginia?
Whatever issues are related to your divorce case, there are few basic steps you definitely have to take to complete an uncontested divorce in Virginia.
Here they are:
- Prepare a divorce Complaint (Bill of Complaint for Divorce), sign it and file it in the circuit court.
- Prepare a Waiver and the copy of a Complaint and deliver it to your spouse (the waiver shows that the Respondent is all right with the divorce and also that he/she doesn’t want to be officially served with the divorce paperwork by the county sheriff). Every person over 18 can hand the documents to your spouse and bring the signed waiver back to you, but the law doesn’t allow you to do it.
- Prepare a Property Settlement Agreement. Actually, it is not only about property, but about all the most important aspects of your post-divorce life which you should agree with your spouse. You both must sign an agreement and notarize it.
- Attach the Settlement agreement to a Divorce Decree. Request and attend a final court hearing. There you should verbally make your request for a divorce, and the case will be closed.
There is no any “cooling-off period” before the hearing in Virginia because it is already implied by the No-fault ground for divorce.
Do-it-yourself divorce in Virginia
Actually, the DIY-divorce is your chance to save money by completing the forms without the lawyer’s help. Do-it-yourself divorce demands all these mentioned above steps to be taken, but, surely, it is appropriate only if your case is uncontested and as simple as possible.
Think in advance, whether you can make a successful agreement and not to miss any important detail. If you have minor children or lots of assets and other property, or maybe you are not sure about your negotiation skills, you should not ignore the mediation option.
DIY-divorce saves your money, but you should be very focused and responsible to fill out all the paperwork correctly and on time.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
The cost of an uncontested divorce, first of all, depends on your county’s filing fee. As the filing fee is a compulsory payment for court services, the start price of a possible divorce is equal to it. In Virginia, the filing fee varies from $100 to $400.
If you need a help of an attorney for your uncontested case, there are some law offices which offer the fixed price for an uncontested divorce, and it is about $500 on average.
Just compare! An average cost of a contested VA divorce is about $12 000 and $22 000 if there are minor children.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in Virginia?
An average contested case can take from 18 to 24 months in VA. This timeline depends on how soon after the real separation (after the spouses started to live separately) one of the spouses filed for divorce.
The length of uncontested divorce can be calculated according to the 1-year or the 6-month separation (ground for a no-fault divorce). Typically, after this term is over, a divorce can take between 6 and 8 weeks to be finalized.
Papers & Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in Virginia
In Virginia, each county has its own rules about how to fill out divorce forms, so you should better check your county court's website or order an adapted to your county (and to your particular case) paperwork kit with our online service to get a more detailed and clear information.
However, there are still some general forms that are compulsory for any VA divorce case. Let’s sort them out:
- Complaint for divorce.
Complaint (also called a petition) is the main document to start any divorce case. It contains the basic information about your marriage and tells about your intention to get a divorce basing on certain grounds.
- VS-4 Form. Report of Divorce or Annulment.
With this form, you must provide some personal information about you and your spouse: place & date of birth, place & date of marriage, number of marriages, education, number of children, grounds for divorce, current addresses. This form is used for statistics of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but it is extremely required to be filled if you want to get a divorce.
- Form CC-1416. Cover Sheet for Civil Actions.
This form is required by the clerk’s office in case of any initial filing.
How to Serve Your Spouse in Virginia
Once you filed the Bill Of Complaint For Divorce, you should provide your spouse with the copy to get his/her respond and consent.
In Virginia, the service rules are not so strict. You have not to pay a sheriff’s fee or hire a process server just to deliver some documents. Though you are not allowed to hand the paperwork to your spouse by yourself, everyone in the age over 18 (the person you trust, of course) can serve your spouse with the paperwork and bring you back a waiver.
Online Divorce in Virginia
If you decided to try a DIY-divorce but to collect the necessary set of forms (and be confident that you missed nothing) turned out to be more difficult task than you thought, - an online divorce will be a good choice.
Online divorce is merely the same as any uncontested DIY divorce. But for the reasonable price, you get the document kit customized according to your county’s rules and your personal case. You need to download all the paperwork on your computer and complete the forms. Online support can help with some questions, and after you did your job it can be reviewed by the specialists.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in Virginia
Rules for child support and visitation are related to children at the age under 19 in Virginia divorce case. VA laws try to provide the best interest of a child and not to favor any of parents. Both mother and father have equal rights to become a custodian or to use their parenting time fully.
The Court considers every case as unique, taking into account the child’s relationship with each parent, and son’s/daughter’s personal preference if there are any. Typically, the court wants parents to share the responsibility, so it is inclined to assign a joint custody, but in many cases, there is a sole custody (one custodial and one non-custodial parent). It is worth to know that all these children issues are never considered to be final. So, the custodial parent shouldn’t usurp all the rights. Once the close contact with both parents considered good for the child by the judge, no one can deny the other parent's visitation with the child, because it may not be in the custodian’s favor.
Support issues are also dynamic, and the court reviews the support amount every 3 years. Children support involves a contribution of both parents too, and its amount is calculated according to lots of factors. Main of them are parent’s income, the habitual level of children's maintenance prior to divorce, the cost of medical insurance, daycare and educational expenses, and so on.
Rules for Spousal Support in Virginia
In Virginia, spousal support, or alimony, can be ordered by Court to protect one of the spouses from a huge financial hardship after divorce. It is not a tool of punishment for the spouse who caused the breakup, but if you are considered to be an injured party, then you probably will be free of the support obligation.
Generally, every case is unique, and that all depends on how convincing and fair are the proofs of the spouse in need. The judge considers both fault aspects and the financial circumstances of each spouse.
Division of Property in Virginia
Speaking of the property division, Virginia belongs to "equitable distribution" states. It means that the spouses keep their separate property, and all the marital property is divided in an equitable (fair, but not necessarily equal) way.
Whether you decided to make your own Separation agreement or want to prepare for the court proceeding, you must clarify what of your property is separate and marital, and be able to prove it with documents, account statements etc.
- Marital property. All the property acquired during the married life, such as:
- property that is held by both spouses
- property acquired by either spouse after the marriage (real estate, assets, businesses etc)
- part marital and part separate property.
- Separate property:
- all that the spouses had before the marriage
- property acquired in exchange for separate property of one of the spouses (but if the other spouse actively contributed in the profit of this new property, that income will be considered as marital)
- personal gifts and inheritances from the third parties.
Division of Debt in Virginia
Debts are the part of the property according to VA laws, so, like the property, debts can also be classified as marital or separate.
Your separate debt includes your bank, store, and others credit cards that are in your name.
But your contribution with these personal accounts into a family life can be considered by the court, and you are allowed to prove if these debts must be claimed as marital debts.
The marital debt includes all the debts you owned jointly during the married life. However, you can prove the court if your common income was spent (and the debts were incurred) for non-marital purposes.
Divorce Mediation in Virginia
Mediation is the modern and civilized way for the “almost ex-spouses” to negotiate and clarify some significant issues of their divorce including property & debt division, child custody and parenting time, some personal aspects that are important for the certain couple and so on.
Whether the divorce is contested or not, and whether you hire an attorney or not, several mediation sessions can be very helpful. Generally, there is a high chance that you will have to communicate with your ex-husband or wife after the divorce, so it is good for you and your children if some of respect and agreement between you will be kept.
During the session of mediation, the neutral third party (the mediator) helps to sort out all the issues of the particular case. It is rather a therapy than legal assistance, but the mediator has a good background to give you piece of advice based on the experience of couples with whom he/she already worked.
The judge usually motivates spouses to try the mediation, but if there are domestic violence or a history of abuse in your family, the court will not refer for mandatory mediation.
How to Divorce a Missing Spouse in Virginia
Like in many other states, in Virginia, you can get a divorce even if cannot find your spouse and have no idea where he/she lives and works now. This process is quiet time-consuming but it's definitely possible for you to get a default divorce.
You should take these steps:
- The first try to serve your spouse with the divorce paperwork. After filing the divorce Complaint you should serve your spouse with the copy with the help of a sheriff or private process server. Your spouse has 21 day to respond, but if he/she remains unavailable you have to start a so-called “diligent search”.
- Diligent search. The diligent search means that you must prove the court that all your attempts to find the missing spouse are failed. For that, you should check his relatives, friends and co-workers, check with the post office for an address, search him/her through the phone directories and other. Then you must go to the court and submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search and an Affidavit for Service by Publication.
- Service by Publication. The Order of Publication notices about your separation by an appropriate local newspaper. This notice is published once a week for four weeks. The Order of Publication must be published at least once a week for 4 weeks.
- Complete the divorce. If there is still no answer from your spouse, the divorce can be granted by default. All the spouses’ agreements can be taken into account. But if there is no any, the Court is able just to terminate the marriage.
Default Divorce in Virginia
Actually, there is no such thing as original “default divorce” in VA. You must prove the evidence of entitlement to the divorce anyway. But in such case, as mentioned above, when the spouse cannot be located, or of the respondent just waives the service of process, you can get a divorce without waiting any longer and without considering of your spouse’s possible orders and suggestions.
Annulment of the Marriage in Virginia
Virginia law recognizes an annulment like a termination of originally invalid (illegal, void) marriage. To annul your marriage you must submit the formal ground for annulment.
Here are grounds for annulment of the marriage in VA:
- Incest (closer than first cousins)
- Incompetent (one of the spouses wasn’t mentally able to understand the marriage)
- Underage marriage
- Prostitute or felon (one of the spouses didn’t mention about these aspects of his/her life)
- Child by other person (a wife is pregnant by another man at the time of marriage or a husband has a child by another woman within 10 months of marriage)
- Duress (one of the spouses was married under the threat or force).
Legal Separation in Virginia
In Virginia, there is no such a legal concept as “Legal Separation”. It is assumed that if you are ready to live separately and want to divide your property, then you are pretty ready to get an absolute divorce.
However, VA laws include the other (but a little similar) thing, which is called a "bed and board divorce".
Under the conditions “bed and board divorce”, the spouses are legally separated but are not allowed to marry someone again. After a year it becomes possible to ask a Court finally turn it into an absolute divorce.
Same-Sex Divorce in Virginia
Since same-gender marriage became legal in VA in October, 2014, same-gender divorce became legal too.
Now, all the homosexual couples have the same rights and should go through the same divorce procedures as heterosexual ones. Even if the couple has been legally married in other state before 2014, they can get a divorce in Virginia if meet the residency requirements of the state.
There are only some children-related issues that can be a little bit more complicated. For example, as Virginia only allows someone to adopt if they are single or married, there are a number of couples who were in committed relationships prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Military Divorce in Virginia
Though according to Virginia residency requirements, one or both spouses must not only live in the state for 6 months but plan to stay there indefinitely, there is an exception for the military divorce. Military member meets residency requirements if he/she is stationed in VA for 6 months, whatever, is he/she intended to stay there or not.
As in other states, in Virginia, all the military spouses are protected from default-divorce by the federal law. If it is impossible to hand the paperwork to the military member, the proceeding may be delayed for the period of active duty and for extra 60 days after that.
But, of course, if a member really wants to get a divorce as soon as possible he/she can waive this right of a waiting period.
How to Divorce a Spouse in Jail in Virginia
The divorce from an incarcerated spouse is not automatic in VA, but there are two legal options for how to complete a dissolution in such a case.
- No-fault divorce
The first way to divorce a spouse in jail is to file for a no-fault ground (irreconcilable breakdown or living apart 1 year, or 6 months, if you haven’t minor children). As in the case of a regular civil divorce, you must serve your spouse with a Complaint, and then, he/she should respond to it or fill out a waiver of service form. Usually, it’s the sheriff who delivers the documents to the incarcerated party.
- Fault-based divorce
One of the fault grounds for divorce in VA is a felony conviction of the spouse for at least one year. But notice, that if you choose a contested divorce in such conditions, your case will be more complicated and time-consuming than if he or she wasn’t in prison.
Virginia Divorce Filing Fee
Whatever type of divorce you decided to complete, the main step is to file a Petition (Complaint) in a family court according to your residence. And every court always charges a certain cost for provided service. This pay is called filing fee (court fee).
In Virginia, there is no any ultimate cost for all divorce cases in the state. The filing fee varies depending on the county and (somewhere) the type of divorce. Generally, it is between $100 and $400 in VA.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
The answer is Yes. For those people who experience a real financial hardship there is such an opportunity not to pay a filing fee. To use it the person must ask the court about the fee waiving by filing the Form CC-1414 (Petition for Proceeding in Civil Case Without Payment of Fees or Costs).
After the judge considers the true evidence of your low income and financial conditions, the request can be approved.
How We Can Help
Our service provides fast and quality preparation of all the documents for an uncontested divorce. With a short online interview, we can have all the information we need to collect forms in accordance with the rules of your county and taking into account the peculiarities of your case. You can get your ready-to-sign forms quickly and without any mistake.
Also, we offer some additional issues like a review of the documents and the instant online support. We are always in touch to do your divorce as easy as possible.
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