Divorce can be a nerve-wracking process for some couples who have decided to dissolve their marriage. The divorce process must follow the state’s rules and regulations, which can be complicated depending on the type of divorce. The time to apply for the divorce also varies depending on the presence of children and joint property division. But, even “simple” divorces require an applicant to follow specific procedures.
Similarly, Virginia divorce laws are simple but can become problematic if not followed properly. The couple must meet the specific eligibility criteria before filing for divorce. A resolution must ultimately be reached on all contiguous issues, including the splitting of assets and property, alimony, and child-related matters.
This article will cover the divorce process in Virginia and what steps you can take before or while filing for the divorce. You’ll also learn how to get an uncontested divorce and the cost of divorce in Virginia.
Steps to Consider While Filing for Divorce in Virginia
Getting a divorce in Virginia is not rocket science. If you have decided to divorce, nobody can stop you. However, before diving into the divorce process, you must know the basics. Here are 5 things to know before filing for divorce in Virginia:
1. The Grounds of Divorce
Filing for divorce requires giving grounds for the action. Virginia state offers two options: Fault-Based grounds and No-Fault grounds divorce.
- No-Fault Divorce: To proceed with a No-Fault divorce, the petitioner only needs to show that the spouses have lived separately for at least 1 year. However, the time may be decreased to 6 months if a couple has a separation agreement and no minor children from the marriage.
- Fault-Based Divorce: A fault-based divorce is more continuous and requires providing a permissible example of marital misconduct. All fault-based grounds require presenting evidence in court, so it is recommended that both parties hire a lawyer.
Fault-Based grounds for Divorce include:
- abandonment and deliberate dissertation for at least 1 year;
- adultery, buggery, or sodomy;
- felony conviction;
- and cruelty by one spouse that harms the other, including insensible anxiety or bodily harm.
Pro Tip: Adultery must have occurred within the last 5 years to be used as a ground for divorce.
2. Gather all the Financial Information
Before you apply for divorce in Virginia, make sure to gather all the available financial documents. You will need to collect information about your retirement accounts, tax returns of the past three years, other assets and the bank accounts, all statements from the financial institutions, financial advisory, and credit card information.
You will also need to gather paperwork that demonstrates the value of each of your assets. At this point, you can take time to consider which property is shared through the marriage and which is separate property that will remain with its owner.
Also, try to collect data about debts owed by both spouses, jointly and separately. Partners often have individual accounts to pay for specific/joint expenses.
Pro Tip: Gather as much information as possible about the entire family finances to be prepared in advance.
3. Complete the Residency Requirement
To fulfill the residency requirement, you or your spouse must be a Virginia resident for at least 6 months without any interruptions. This means maintaining a physical residence in Virginia and considering Virginia as your home. Proof of residency involves giving a recent state tax filing, a state driving license, or Virginia voter registration.
Pro Tip: In some unusual residency cases, foreign service and military personnel qualify if they’ve been stationed in the state for the required 6 months.
4. Consult with Experienced Divorce Attorney
Getting a divorce without an attorney can put you at risk of losing access to your children or assets. If you don’t want to hire an attorney, you are at risk that you will make enormous and expensive choices based on your emotions rather than your legal rights. An attorney’s expertise and knowledge will take you to the best outcome possible for your future.
How to apply for divorce in Virginia without consulting with the attorney? First of all, it’s not recommendable to file for divorce without a lawyer/attorney unless you meet all relevant requirements and your case is entirely uncontested. Not consulting with an attorney works best with less complicated no-fault, uncontested divorces, especially when there are no children or significant assets.
But how do you find a trustworthy attorney? You can search for AVVO or use Google rankings and reviews. You can also look locally for highly-reputable law firms with attorneys that specialize in divorce.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to consult with an attorney and want to save money, consider online divorce. This service is convenient for no-fault divorces and can help you file and complete a settlement agreement.
6. Seek as Much Knowledge as Possible
If you consult with a divorce attorney, use the time to get as much information as possible. You can judge an attorney’s experience by asking questions. When you leave the attorney, you must have an idea of the attorney’s recommended path for your divorce.
During your consultation time, don’t be uncomfortable sharing personal information. Any surprises revealed during the divorce process could cause unnecessary complications. The sooner issues are revealed, the more proactively your divorce attorney can deal with those problems.
It’s easy to have a desire to punish your spouse, but you must remain grounded during the divorce process to resolve your issues efficiently and keep the cost of your divorce down.
Pro Tip: You can look at the attorney’s profile on Google or LinkedIn to get a better idea of his/her experience.
How to get Uncontested Divorce in Virginia?
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all the separation issues, including child support and custody. You can easily consider this as an undisputed divorce option. This divorce type is best for controlling the family’s emotional and mental strain and minimizing complications during the divorce.
If you want to apply for an uncontested divorce in Virginia, you must resolve the following issues:
- Division of debts and assets
- Division of personal property and real estate
- Visitation arrangement and child custody
- Child support and spousal support
What is the Cost of Getting a Divorce in Virginia?
Virginia is the 8th most expensive state for filing a divorce. The average cost is $14,500. But keep in mind that the divorce’s price can vary greatly depending on the individual case’s circumstances. The most significant expense is always the attorney fees. Therefore, lengthy contested cases typically cost a great deal more than uncontested cases. An uncontested case without a lawyer (or with limited-scope legal assistance) is the cheapest option. The cost of divorce could theoretically be reduced to just the filing fees and expenses related to paperwork preparation if a couple opts for a DIY divorce.
Like any other state in the U.S, Virginia has laws and regulations for filing a divorce. You can choose a contested or uncontested divorce depending on your situation. Make sure you follow the steps mentioned above to make the divorce process smooth.
Failing to include the correct documents or making mistakes can lead to the rejection of your petition, causing the case to be delayed. Therefore, it is recommended to have an attorney look over your documents before you file for divorce.