Divorce

Virginia Divorce Attorneys


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.

Why Choose Melone Hatley, P.C.?
  • Experienced, aggressive and caring divorce lawyers
  • Highly Rated By Clients
  • Big Law Firm experience in a boutique setting
  • Client focused approach with one-on-one attention
  • Cost-effective approach
  • Payment plans available

Questions regarding divorce issues? Contact our office today or schedule a call with one of our Client Services Coordinators.


Table of Contents:

Divorce

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.

What Are the Requirements to File for Divorce in Virginia?

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 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.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Virginia?

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.

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Contested Divorce

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.

  • Adultery must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard than other grounds for divorce. Proof of adultery may include admissions from the other party, evidence of messages sent, photographs, or videos. Adultery cases can be complex to prove. If proven, adultery can act as a bar to a claim for spousal support.
  • Cruelty means physical abuse, and it must be shown to have occurred on more than one instance. Threats of physical harm can be a ground for a divorce from bed and board, but not a final divorce. Once the parties have been separated for one year they can petition for a final divorce based on separation.
  • Desertion/Abandonment: In order to prove desertion or abandonment, the spouse must show something more than just separation. If a spouse leaves the marital home and all financial obligations behind, they may be found to have deserted the marriage.
  • Felony Conviction: In order to get a divorce based on a felony conviction, the conviction must result in a period of incarceration for at least 1 year. The spouse must also be incarcerated for a period of at least 1 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 Will a Contested Divorce in Virginia Take?

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.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: Which is Better?

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.

How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce in Virginia?

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.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in Virginia?

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:

  • Valuable experience in different situations since they have handled many divorce cases.
  • Objective advice that is not driven by emotion, but by their knowledge of the law and how to best approach your individual situation.
  • Avoiding common mistakes people often make in divorce situations, especially when high emotions and distress are involved.
  • Suggesting solutions to settlements that you may not have previously considered.
  • Helping through difficult decisions by providing unbiased guidance to help make the best decisions for you.
  • Acting as your voice in contentious or difficult circumstances that occur through the divorce process.
  • Collecting vital evidence to make certain no important details are unintentionally overlooked to help the judge make a fair decision.

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.

Can You Get Alimony in Virginia?

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.

Will My Spouse Get Custody of My Children in Virginia?

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

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

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.

What Family Court Judges Consider

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:

  • The child’s age, mental condition, and developmental needs.
  • Age and mental condition of each parent.
  • Parental relationships with the child, past, and future roles each parent play in the child’s life.
  • Ability of each parent to support the child’s relationship with the other parent (e.g., being collaborative regarding visitation or child’s contact with their former spouse).
  • History of family abuse or sexual abuse.

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.

To learn more about child custody in Virginia, we invite you to visit this page to gain more understanding of child custody and this page to learn more about how child support is determined.

Let Melone Hatley P.C. Handle Your Divorce Case

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 call with one of our Client Services Coordinators.

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  • E.C.

    What a breath of fresh air they were. After dealing with a terrible firm that took a divorce and turned it into a year long $30,000 nightmare. Emily Vaughn turned my case around in as little as a week. All parties were talking again and it was finished a month or two after that. Eric Schell and Emily Vaughn were hands down the best to work with. I would recommend them to anyone! I am and will continue to use them in other matters in the future. They truly impressed! Great job you two!!

    E.C.
  • J.G.

    I contacted the Charlotte office with some initial inquiries and found myself in contact with Haley Acuff. I was impressed with her obvious compassion and objectiveness. Her insightful questions helped me to clarify my thought process, while also inspiring confidence that I have indeed found the caring and capable legal representation I was hopeful to find.

    J.G.
  • R.S.

    “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.”

  • M.A.

    “I had started this process of going through child custody at Norfolk JDR with Mr. Hatley about 2 1/2 years ago. He had done SO much from fighting false domestic violence charges to helping me gain custody of my son. I was skeptical when I first came in years ago because I got passed off from another lawyer to Mr. Hatley.

    I was very blunt and had told him that I needed everything he had and that is exactly what he did. He was there for every phone call, every emergency, every email, every court appearance on time and dressed extremely well. He knew his stuff and he had saved me a lot of money and time staying out of court for false charges. If you ever get the unlucky chance of having to go to court you wont be unlucky if you have Hatley on your side. Thank you guys for everything you have done.”

  • D.S.

    “This is by far the #1 Law Firm! I had the pleasure of hiring this firm at the Reston, Virginia location and it surpassed all of my expectations. Melone Hatley P.C has exceptional attributes including:

    1) Customer Service- The staff is ALWAYS pleasant/warming

    2) Communication- Attorney’s are very easy to contact and the response time is rapid.

    3) Cost- The retainer and hourly attorney fee’s are very cost efficient

    4) Client Case- They work diligently on my case”

  • N.N.

    “They were so friendly and attentive to the matter I brought to them. I wasn’t just treated like “another case”. It felt like they actually cared about me and the outcome of the matter I brought to them. The positive results they got me obviously were the best part!”

  • S.H.

    “I hired MH to handle a divorce. Charles and Angela have been nothing but professional, empathetic, and timely. There isn’t another firm out there that will provide this level of care. Highly recommended.”

  • A.D.

    “Ms. Alexandra at Melone Hatley is great with her communication skills. Very honest, helpful, and keeps to her word. Flawless system that this law firm has set up. Impressed to say the least.”

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