Working through a divorce can be extremely challenging. You not only have to go through the mental and emotional toll that a divorce has on both spouses, but you also must deal with the legal jargon and jump through the hoops of the divorce process.
It is even more difficult when you have children, need to divide retirement accounts, business assets, or split equity in a house.
As you head down the road toward divorce, there is so much to consider. It can seem overwhelming, and you may not know where to start. Thankfully, Melone Hatley, P.C. is here to help. We have consistently been recognized as a top-rated knowledgeable and compassionate law firm serving Prince William County. Our office wants to help, and we look forward to guiding you through this difficult time.
This guide will teach you how to identify and avoid the ten most common mistakes people make in a divorce.
Not just anyone can get divorced in Prince William County. You have to meet certain requirements to not only request a divorce but also have the court grant your request.
First, at least one spouse must have been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before filing for the divorce. The parties might run into jurisdictional issues if one spouse has no connection to Virginia or if one spouse is active duty military.
You must also pay filing fees when you initially file for divorce. In Prince William County, the fees are generally $86.00. The fees vary based on service requirements and whether you want the sheriff to serve a copy of the paperwork to your spouse or you want it done by private process server.
Virginia also specifically requires that you have grounds to request the divorce. Those grounds must exist before you file for your divorce. Example grounds might include adultery, one spouse is convicted of a felony (and have a prison sentence of at least one year), or the parties have lived apart for at least one year. If there are no children, you may be able to claim that you have been living separately and apart for six months.
Costs vary a great deal for divorce cases in Northern Virginia. More complicated divorces will often cost more. For example, if your divorce needs to address any of the following issues, the cost may increase — especially if those issues become passionately contested:
Every case is different, so issues that affect your specific circumstances will impact the overall cost of the divorce process.
In general, VA divorce lawyers will charge by the hour. Those fees are often around $390 to $450 per hour. Hourly fees are dependent on their experience and skill in the divorce process.
Of course, attorney fees are in addition to filing fees and other related costs. Experts that can provide property or business valuations might be necessary in some cases. Required psychological or medical experts can add significant expenses.
Questions regarding divorce issues? Contact our office today to schedule a call with one of our client services coordinators.
A contested divorce is one where the couple does not agree on everything before filing for divorce. The grounds for the divorce might be contested, or there might be disagreements about any other aspect of the divorce.
Contested divorces make up the majority of divorce cases. Contested divorces are more common because even if the couple agrees on the grounds for the divorce, they might not agree on other parts, such as child custody, property division, debt division, alimony (spousal support), or visitation.
To obtain a divorce, there must be grounds for divorce, which might include:
In order to prove adultery, you must show, through clear and convincing evidence, that the offending spouse engaged in an extra-marital sexual relationship. Clear and convincing evidence is more than just thinking that your spouse is having an extra-marital affair–you generally must know the name and approximate dates of any occurrences.
Abandonment requires more than just separation. The other spouse must have left financial obligations behind or have some other evidence of desertion, and there must be the actual breaking of cohabitation.
Constructive Desertion is the idea that the other spouse has made the living conditions in the home so bad that it forced you from your from the home. This is common in cases of physical and emotional domestic violence. Basically, you have to leave the home to escape the abuse, and then you will be able to claim that the other spouse constructively deserted the marriage through his or her bad actions.
If there was physical abuse, that could be grounds for divorce. This domestic violence must have occurred more than once.
If the felony conviction results in incarceration for more than one year, then that may be grounds for a divorce.
If none apply, the couple must separate before finalizing a divorce. Obtaining a divorce requires a six-month or one-year separation period (depending on whether the couple has children).
Aspects of a contested divorce you should know include:
You will work far closer with a Virginia divorce attorney in a contested case because you must follow certain procedural requirements as you work through this process.
Spousal support is sometimes granted when one spouse makes significantly more income than the other. In those circumstances, one spouse might be completely unemployed or just make far less than the other. Virginia uses both temporary and long-term alimony in an effort to not leave the lower-earning spouse destitute after the marriage.
Temporary, or pendente lite, alimony (or spousal support) is designed to provide a method for one spouse to get back on their feet after a divorce. It is provided for a short period of time, so one spouse can get employment (or a better job) or get an education to further their career.
Long-term alimony might be provided if there is no realistic way that one spouse will ever make the kind of money the other spouse is making. Long-term spousal support can be for a defined period of time or no set defined period. Generally, if spousal support is awarded by the court, it will be modifiable.
Many factors go into determining which spouse should get child custody. First, it is important to note that Virginia uses two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody.
The parent awarded physical custody lives with the child and oversees their daily care. Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent, and joint physical custody means that the child splits their time between both households.
Legal custody provides that a parent can control the care of a child and make decisions regarding their well-being, such as regarding religion, education, and healthcare. Most cases involve splitting legal custody, but there are situations where sole legal custody is granted as well.
When determining custody, Virginia courts will often consider:
Once the child turns 14, the court may also consider the child’s preferences about custody as well.
You can read more about custody and visitation questions here
Every case is different, so speaking with an experienced family law attorney and getting legal representation is critical.
You can file for divorce without legal counsel. However, it generally is not a good idea, as you may not know or understand your rights. It is not uncommon for one spouse to try and get the upper hand in divorce. Without an attorney, you have no one to protect your rights, inform you of your options, or discuss legal issues. It is best to talk to a divorce lawyer before you file to avoid any mistakes and to avoid being taken advantage of.
A divorce attorney can help you communicate with your soon-to-be ex-spouse or the other attorney. Tension and emotions are high in the divorce process, and having an attorney who is your partner through this process is invaluable.
Going through a divorce is rarely easy. It is a difficult process that requires hours of time and attention, in addition to your daily work and family demands. Let Melone Hatley, P.C. shoulder this burden for you. Our law office will be your partner through the divorce process, explain your rights, and provide guidance. Client relationships are important to our law group, and it shows in our legal advice and our top-rated attorney reviews.
Our divorce attorneys serve clients throughout Northern Virginia, including cities in Fairfax County and Prince William County, such as Manassas, Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, Woodbridge, Stafford, Leesburg, Gainesville, Fredericksburg, and the surrounding areas. Our law firm has been named by Super Lawyers Rising Star continuously for six years. Put those years of experience and knowledge to work for you. Contact us today to see the difference we can make for you throughout your divorce.
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