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Defining and Understanding Divorce in Virginia

Defining and Understanding Divorce in Virginia

When you are married in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can obtain a divorce — a legal dissolution of your marriage—by the court. This choice, as well as the process itself, can be gut wrenching, painful, and, at times, a long and arduous undertaking. During your divorce, each person will reorganize or absolve themselves of certain legal rights and responsibilities that come with the union of marriage. A Virginia court will require a “legal reason” for your divorce.

The divorce process in Virginia

There are several steps from requesting a divorce to obtaining it, and a certain protocol that must be followed in order. This step-by-step guide should help you orient yourself to this process:

  • Fulfill a residency requirement. At least one spouse should be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce.

  • Seek the counsel of a divorce attorney. Even if you are not planning to need a lawyer for your divorce, it is sensible to find one to hire, even if it is just for document preparation. Your attorney can file for divorce in the Virginia Circuit Court.

  • Determine if your divorce is “no fault.” No fault divorce in Virginia requires a twelve or six-month separation period (depending if you have children and if you have a marital settlement agreement). You can also seek a collaborative divorce, wherein each spouse retains counsel and you both agree on a “Participation Agreement.” Often times there are other professionals also who help in collaborative divorce. It could become expensive if you cannot arrive at a settlement, as you then need to find new attorneys to start all over again! The most litigious divorces are the most adversarial, and can drag out in courts for months or even years.

  • Consider mediation. Whether your divorce is contentious or not, in many cases mediation can make the process simpler, more dignified, and more cost effective. This process allows both parties come to an agreement about property division, child custody, spousal support, and other issues, rather than an unknown judge deciding for you after hearing evidence at various hearings. Not only does mediation allow you to control the outcome for you and your spouse and for you to collaborate together to resolve your problems but it also permits you to be creative with solutions that fit you and your family and which a judge could not or would not do. Even though you and your spouse have difficulty communicating or are angry with each other, our skilled mediators are often able to help you come to a common resolution of your problems.

  • Finalize your divorce. Once you and your spouse have agreed upon the terms of your divorce (resolved support, parenting issues, and division of assets and debt), your attorney can represent you in court to finalize your divorce in Virginia or you can obtain one without counsel.

How much will my divorce cost me?

Divorce in Virginia can be expensive and time consuming. In order to decrease attorney fees and time spent in court, increasingly couples choose mediation as a means to dissolve their marital issues. From court fees to attorney’s fees, divorce can be quite costly, especially when negotiating for child support and child custody. Too, the emotional cost of a contested divorce can be great on both parties and their children where in a mediation the parties learn how to communicate to resolve the issues and are able to avoid much of the emotional pain.

Oftentimes, mediation is a more economical option for spouses looking for a workable solution. Mediation can reduce lawyer fees and the need for expensive communication during the back-and-forth negotiation of a divorce decree. If a couple enters into mediation, the goal is simply to swiftly find a solution that works for both parties and their children.

At Divorce Mediation Associates, we help you facilitate a safe, productive, and collaborative environment in which to conduct your divorce negotiations. We put a premium on respectful interactions and customer satisfaction. You can choose to conduct mediation with or without an attorney. For more information, please call us at 703-665-7592, or use our contact form.