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.
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, they must be separated for 1 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.
Contested cases can be contested for a number of reasons. First, the grounds for the divorce may not be agreed. 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.