Virginia divorce details
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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 property or child custody, and each spouse has their opinion 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. As a result, 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. 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 do not have any serious complaints about your spouse and there are no ambiguous situations 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 the 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, division of property and real estate, spousal support (if any is needed), and others. But sometimes, even though the spouses haven’t written such an 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 recognizes divorce based on both 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 Virginia is living separately for more than a year. But if the spouses entered into a separation agreement and don’t have 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).
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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 starts.
This rule also considers military members stationed in Virginia for at least six months to be residents of Virginia.
Note 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
Regardless of what issues are related to your divorce case, there are a few basic steps you definitely have to take to complete an uncontested divorce in Virginia:
- 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 agrees with the divorce and that they also don’t want to be officially served with the divorce paperwork by the county sheriff). Anyone over the age of 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. 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 must both 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 “cooling-off period” before the hearing in Virginia because it is already implied by the no-fault grounds for divorce.
Do-it-yourself divorce in Virginia
DIY-divorce is your chance to save money by completing the forms without the lawyer’s help. Do-it-yourself divorce demands all the steps mentioned above, but 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 miss any important details. If you have minor children or lots of assets and other property, or if you are unsure 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 initially depends on your county’s filing fee. As the filing fee is a compulsory payment for court services, the starting price of a possible divorce is equal to it. In Virginia, the filing fee varies from $100 to $400.
If you need the help of an attorney for your uncontested case, there are some law offices which offer a fixed price for an uncontested divorce which is about $500 on average.
In comparison, the average cost of a contested Virginia 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 Virginia. 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 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.
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 their response and consent.
In Virginia, the service rules are not so strict. You do not have to pay a sheriff’s fee or hire a process server to deliver the documents. Though you are not allowed to hand the paperwork to your spouse by yourself, anyone over the age of 18 (and someone you can trust) can serve your spouse with the paperwork and bring you back a waiver.
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Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in Virginia
In Virginia, each county has its own rules on how to fill out divorce forms, so you should check your county court's website or use an online service like ours to get a packet of paperwork that fit the requirements of your specific case.
However, there are still some general forms that are compulsory for any Virginia divorce case:
- 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 states your intention to get a divorce based 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.
Online Divorce in Virginia
If you decide to try a DIY divorce, but the preparation of documents (and be confident that you missed nothing) turns out to be more difficult than you thought, an online divorce will be a good choice.
Online divorce is merely the same as any uncontested DIY divorce. But for a 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 afterwards you can get your work reviewed by specialists.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in Virginia
Rules for child support and visitation are related to children over the age under 19 in Virginia divorce case. Virginia laws try to provide the best interest of a child and not to favor any of parents. Both parents have equal rights to become a custodian or use their parenting time fully.
The Court considers every case as unique, taking into account the child’s relationship with each parent and their personal preference, if there are any. Typically, the court wants parents to share the responsibility, so it is inclined to assign a joint custody. However in many cases, there is sole custody (one custodial and one non-custodial parent). It is worth to know that all these child related issues are never considered to be final. So, the custodial parent shouldn’t usurp all the rights. Once close contact with both parents is 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. The main ones include: 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 many different factors. The judge considers both fault aspects and the financial circumstances of each spouse.
Division of Property in Virginia
Speaking of property division, Virginia belongs to "equitable distribution" states. It means that the spouses keep their separate property and all marital property is divided in an equitable (fair, but not necessarily equal) way.
Whether you decide to make your own separation agreement or want to prepare for the court proceeding, you must distinguish between marital and separate property, and be able to prove it with documents and account statements.
- 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 to the profit of this new property, that income will be considered as marital)
- Personal gifts and inheritances from third parties.
Division of Debt in Virginia
Debts are part of the property according to Virginia laws. As a result, like 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 married life. However, you can prove to 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 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 spouse, so it is good for you and your children if some respect and agreement between you is kept.
During the mediation session, the neutral third party (mediator) helps to sort out all the issues of the particular case. It is more of a therapy than legal assistance, but the mediator has a good background to give you advice based on the experience of couples with whom they have already worked with.
The judge usually motivates spouses to try mediation. However, if there is domestic violence or a history of abuse in your family, the court will require mandatory mediation sessions.
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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 they live and work. This process can be time-consuming, but it's definitely possible for you to get a default divorce.
You should take the following steps:
- You must 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 they remain 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 have failed. For this, you should check with relatives, friends and co-workers; check with the post office for an address; search them through the phone directories; and others. You must then 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 notifies 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 are none, the Court is able to just terminate the marriage.
Default Divorce in Virginia
There is no such thing as an original “default divorce” in Virginia. 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 when the respondent just waives the service of process, you can get a divorce without waiting any longer and without considering your spouse’s possible orders and suggestions.
Annulment of 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 an annulment.
Below are grounds for an annulment of the marriage in Virginia:
- 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 these aspects of their life)
- Child with another person (the 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 threat or force).
Legal Separation in Virginia
In Virginia, there is no legal concept such as “legal separation”. It is assumed that if you are ready to live separately and want to divide your property, then you are ready to get an absolute divorce.
However, Virginia laws include a similar approach, which is called a "bed and board divorce".
Under this, 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
Same-sex marriage and divorce were recognized in Virginia in October, 2014.
Now, all 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 another state before 2014, they can get a divorce in Virginia if they 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
Although 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 members meet residency requirements if they are stationed in Virginia for 6 months, regardless of whether they intend 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.
However, if a member really wants to get a divorce as soon as possible, they 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 Virginia, but there are two legal options on 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 don’t have minor children). As in the case of a regular civil divorce, you must serve your spouse with a Complaint. Afterwards, they 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 Virginia is a felony conviction of the spouse for at least one year. But note that if you choose a contested divorce in such conditions, your case will be more complicated and time-consuming than if they weren’t in prison.
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Virginia Divorce Filing Fee
Court filing fees are in addition to the cost of using DivorceFiller.com. This cost may vary by county. Please check with your local courthouse to determine the exact amount.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
For those who experience a real financial hardship there is such an opportunity not to pay a filing fee. You may request the fee to be waived by submitting to the court 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.
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