Finding yourself in the midst of a divorce often comes with angst and despair. For most people, it is a difficult time. Even if you feel a sense of relief about the divorce, it does not mean it is any less stressful or time-consuming. A divorce case can last several months and requires hours of paperwork and decision-making.
As the process moves forward, divorce has a tendency to get even more complicated, especially when children or assets are a part of the decision-making process. Custody, visitation, division of financial investments, or determination of who gets the home can be large points of contention. A divorce lawyer can work towards equitable distribution and advocate for your rights.
Melone Hatley, P.C. is here for you. Our top-rated Virginia family law firm can provide guidance and protect your rights during difficult times and have the experience needed to help you through the divorce process. Call us at 800-479-8124 to learn more about how we can help.
Questions regarding divorce issues? Contact our office today or schedule a free initial consultation.
Whether you are facing a contested or uncontested divorce, our team can make sure you understand your rights and options at every step of the process. We pride ourselves on making sure clients understand their choices so they can make an informed decision about how to proceed with their case.
We frame every case in terms of what the court would do so that clients understand their range of potential outcomes and can help minimize risk.
For any divorce case in Virginia, one party has to have been a resident for at least 6 months prior to filing the case. If the other spouse has no connection to Virginia, the court may not have jurisdiction to determine any property or support issues between the parties.
The Commonwealth also designates if the marriage did not produce children, the couple must have been separated for a minimum of six months. Additionally, they must put together a written property settlement agreement before moving forward to file for a divorce. Couples who are parents of children must be separated for at least one year before being eligible to file for divorce.
Uncontested cases are relatively straightforward, once you and your spouse reach an agreement. In Virginia, parties with no minor children must have a written separation agreement and be separated for 6 months prior to initiating a court case for a divorce.
If the parties have minor children, the couple must be separated for one year prior to filing a divorce case. The only no-fault ground for divorce in Virginia is separation, which means physical separation of the parties.
No formal documentation is required to initiate a separation. Once the parties physically separate with the intent to remain separated permanently, the criteria have been met.
The procedure for obtaining a divorce will depend upon whether the parties have a written separation agreement, in which case they may be able to finalize the case using affidavits.
If everything is resolved, including property division, debt division, and all custody and support issues, an affidavit divorce may be the fastest way to finalize the case. If some or all issues are not resolved, the court will need to schedule a contested hearing.
If a divorce is uncontested by both parties, it typically takes roughly one to three months to complete after filing. These divorces are much more straightforward than contested divorces since the two parties usually have already come to some sort of agreement.
The biggest complication in uncontested divorces in Virginia is over custody or property settlements. The more agreeable both parties are, the faster the process moves along.
Contested cases can be contested for a number of reasons. First, the grounds for the divorce may not be agreed upon. Fault-based grounds for divorce in Virginia include cruelty, desertion/abandonment, adultery, or a felony conviction that results in incarceration of at least one year.
Next, even if the grounds for the divorce are not contested, any number of issues may be disputed between the parties, requiring a contested hearing. Among the issues are financial division of both assets and debts, custody and visitation of minor children, and support issues.
A contested case is initiated by filing a complaint for divorce and serving the other side with notice and an opportunity to file a response. In some cases, an initial temporary motion, called a pendente lite motion, may be necessary to get a temporary ruling in place while the parties wait for trial.
During a contested case, the parties can engage in discovery, which is the process of requesting and exchanging financial documents and other requests regarding the evidence to be presented at trial. Both parties are entitled to a disclosure from one another regarding their finances and any other evidence they intend to introduce to the court.
How long your divorce will take will vary depending on individual circumstances. Contested divorces are more complicated than uncontested ones and can last far longer, up to 18 months. Divorces that do go through the contested process in the Commonwealth are not eligible to appeal. Any decision made in contested divorces is final 30 days after the judge signs the final divorce decree.
Many people pursuing a divorce wonder which is better, a contested or uncontested divorce. Realistically speaking, it depends, but generally, the longer a divorce process takes, the more expensive it will be.
People often pursue uncontested divorces because they are more affordable, but what they can lose in the process may end up costing them a lot more in the long term. Do note, however, that just because an uncontested divorce is typically not as expensive as a contested divorce, that does not mean it is cheap.
There are pros and cons to both and, ultimately, you should evaluate your current situation to help decide. Couples who have been married a long time, have children, or have accumulated valuable assets typically end up in contested divorce situations.
Uncontested divorces are faster and more affordable, but you may lose other things that are very important to you in the process.
An experienced family law attorney who is thoroughly versed in Virginia divorce law can present your options and provide honest legal advice on the best way to proceed.
The answer to this question is not clear-cut since the cost to file for divorce in Virginia is based on a variety of factors. Decisions regarding children, assets, and other specifics related to your individual case factor in. Generally speaking, divorce attorneys typically charge anywhere between $350 and $375 per hour (with some outlier prices on both ends), but rates usually equate with experience.
Divorce attorneys charging on the lower end may not be as well-versed in Virginia family law and spend more time researching, driving up the hours needed to work on your case. Less experience can also equate to not having a strong “know-how” regarding the Virginia legal process and courts.
Most divorce lawyers understand divorces can be expensive and may offer payment plans to help make things easier. Speak to your attorney to see what they are able to offer you in terms of spreading out the costs. The Commonwealth of Virginia has an online calculator you can use to estimate costs and find your district’s fees.
Technically, you can represent yourself in court, but this is seldom a good idea, especially if there are child custody disputes or you and your spouse are having disagreements over splitting joint assets. People representing themselves often come out on the losing end of the final divorce decree because they lack the knowledge and experience of the legal system. Benefits of hiring a Virginia divorce lawyer include:
Furthermore, if your spouse has a divorce lawyer, you do not want to go it alone without legal representation. You will want someone with an equivalent or better experience to serve as your advocate so you do not inadvertently agree to something you do not want.
Virginia does allow spousal support to be awarded when necessary, but it is not a given. When deciding whether alimony should be awarded, the court looks at all information, considers different factors, and evaluates individual circumstances.
Combined, a judge uses these elements to determine if alimony is warranted. For instance, if adultery or other circumstances contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, Virginia courts do consider these events.
Determining who gets child custody is decided on a variety of family law matters. In Virginia, there are two types of custody, physical and legal.
Physical custody means exactly what it sounds like. The parent awarded physical custody lives with the child and oversees their daily care. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent, and joint physical custody means the child splits time between both households.
Legal custody determines which parent takes control of the care of the children and makes decisions relating to their well-being, including health, schools, religion, and other decisions parents typically make when raising their child. In some cases, legal custody is awarded to one parent, but in others, a court splits this responsibility between both parents, regardless of who has physical custody.
The custody of children is determined by what the court deems to be in their best interest. In some cases, a court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to protect the best interests of a child and this attorney (or advocate) provides input on custody and visitation matters. Other considerations divorce courts consider include:
In Virginia, once a child reaches the age of 14, their opinion is also considered. Depending on circumstances, a judge may determine joint physical and/or legal custody is the best solution. One parent may receive both physical and legal custody or just one of the two.
Going through a divorce is a painful and confusing time. It can be difficult to make decisions when going through emotional turmoil. The compassionate family law divorce attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. understand exactly what you are going through. We have experience in no-fault divorce, military divorce, and all other practice areas relating to family law.
In addition to offering high-quality legal services, Melone Hatley, P.C. also is pleased to offer clients free eBooks, free advice videos, and easy online scheduling.
Rebecca Melone was awarded as a top lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40, along with receiving Super Lawyers Rising Stars awards in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Firm partner Charles Hatley offers long-term “big law” legal experience, having managed offices in Virginia and New York, bringing this experience into the boutique law firm setting.
Our goal is to support our clients with high-quality legal services in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Leesburg, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Prince William County, and all other areas of Northern Virginia and the rest of the Commonwealth.
To request an initial consultation about any legal issues associated with your divorce, call our office at 800-479-8124 or complete our online contact form to speak with our family law team about your case.
If you are facing separation and divorce, contact our office today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Divorce Lawyer.
“We have been working with Attorney Marcus Mitchell for several months. We find him to be knowledgeable, professional and he goes above and beyond in communications. We highly recommend him!”
“Worked with both James and Rebecca. Both were very professional and worked hard to make sure I was taken care of with my child support cases. I fully recommend them.”
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