Understanding the ins and outs of your divorce case can be nearly as troubling and stressful as making the decision to file for divorce. Equipping yourself with a solid grasp of the nature of separation and divorce in Virginia can help you reach the most favorable outcome. To help you through the process, we’ve compiled a list of five important aspects of divorce law in Virginia.
Separation in Virginia can be best described as a physical separation. A married couple makes and follows arrangements to live separately. However, this definition does not imply that the couple has signed a formal Separation Agreement. Separation in Virginia is not the same as a legal or formal separation found in other states.
You’ll find Separation Agreements are called by many different names, but all can be defined as legal contracts. These contracts are agreed upon and signed by both of the parties involved. They cover important matters such as property, child custody, support, and finances to help spouses resolve disputes and narrow the issues regarding the divorce.
Above all, a Separation Agreement is a legal document and can be enforced by the court. These documents may also be used in contempt-of-court proceedings once they are incorporated into a final decree of divorce. The matters decided upon in Separation Agreements are final except those regarding child custody and support as these needs may change.
Separation serves as a basis for a no-fault divorce in Virginia. If a couple has children, the separation must be for at least one year in duration with no reconciliation on the part of the couple during that one year period. It must also be intentional. If the couple have no children under the age of 18, the separation may last for a shorter period of time, 6 months, and must include a Separation Agreement.
Response requirements depend on the residency of the receiving party. If you file for divorce and your spouse is a Virginia resident, he or she will have 21 days to respond. If your spouse lives in another state, the response time is extended to 60 days. In the case that your spouse lives outside the United States, he or she has 90 days to respond to the complaint.
What happens if your spouse does not respond? If the service of process is successful, the court can still continue with the divorce. A hearing will be scheduled requiring the appearance of you and any corroborative witnesses. During this time, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to offer evidence. Once the hearing is over, the court will make a decision regarding the grounds of divorce and related settlements.
Where should you file for divorce? The complaint must be made in the circuit court where you or your spouse have established residency. It is important to meet the residency requirements before you file. In Virginia, you or your spouse must be able to prove residency in the state for at least 6 months before filing for divorce. If you are not able to prove that you or your spouse meet the residency requirements, your case may be dismissed.
You may file for divorce in the county or city where you and your spouse last held residency or in the Virginian county or city where either of you resides.
Our legal team at Melone Hatley has significant experience in the area of family law, divorce, separation agreements, and residency requirements. To discuss your specific situation, contact us today for a case evaluation.