Divorce is commonly one of the hardest changes you may ever face. Because it means the end of your most intimate relationship and the breakup of your family, the emotional toll can be enormous.
You will have to make decisions about the most private and basic aspects of your life, from financial and property issues to parenting. Aside from the emotional aspect, it can be difficult, complex, time-consuming, and expensive. All these factors combined can put you into an overwhelming state of stress.
Finding a family law attorney you trust when divorce becomes an issue is the first step to avoiding unnecessary time, expense, and duress.
At Butler Moss O'Neal, PLC, our Fredericksburg, VA divorce lawyers have primarily focused its practice on Virginia divorce and family law. We handle these cases day in and day out which means we have gained a deep understanding and practical application of the Virginia divorce laws, procedures, and factors involved in a divorce.
As a long-established law firm with a team that shares 100 years of combined experience, we can be the guide and representative you need in even the most complicated cases.
Divorce in Virginia can involve many family law issues such as:
Many people face or assert allegations of “fault” in the marriage, for example:
- Domestic violence
The laws governing these issues are complex, and no one should attempt to litigate or negotiate them alone.
What are the Grounds for Divorce in VA?
To be granted a divorce in Virginia, one must first prove “grounds of divorce” that justify the need for the split. These can include one or more of various “fault” grounds, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion, or reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
- To secure a fault-based divorce, you must provide proof of the marital misconduct of your spouse in court.
- This entails a trial. Most “fault-based” grounds of divorce, except for adultery, also require that the parties have remained intentionally separated for a period of one year or more.
A divorce can also be granted on “no-fault” or separation grounds alone if the parties have remained intentionally separated for the statutory period, which can be one year prior to filing or six months if you have no minor children and have a separation agreement.
- In a no-fault divorce, you do not have to prove marital misconduct in court.
- However, a no-fault petition for divorce does not necessarily mean that your spouse may not contest some aspect of the divorce, such as child custody or how the marital estate will be divided.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorce in Virginia
According to the specific circumstances of each couple, contested divorces and uncontested divorces are both available in Virginia.
- In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree on certain key issues, such as property division, child custody, or spousal support.
- Uncontested divorces, on the other hand, are ones in which the parties are able to resolve all of these issues without the involvement of a court.
It is important for anyone considering filing for divorce in Virginia to understand the differences between these two types of divorces, as they can have an impact on the length, complexity, and cost of the divorce process.
Contested Divorce in Virginia
Divorces that are contested involve the court as a mediator to resolve any disagreements between the spouses.
In order to make decisions that are in the best interests of any children involved and are fair and equitable to both spouses, the court will consider evidence and testimony from both spouses, as well as any relevant documents.
As contested divorces often involve attorneys, expert witnesses, and other professionals, which can be complicated and time-consuming.
You may, however, need a contested divorce in some cases to protect your rights and interests and reach a fair resolution to your divorce issues which is why it is important to have an experienced Fredericksburg, VA divorce lawyer on your side to guide you through the process.
Uncontested Divorce in VA
In Virginia, an uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses agree on all key divorce issues, including property division, child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, etc.
By agreeing on the terms of their separation without the need for court intervention, the spouses are able to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
A settlement agreement addressing all the relevant issues is usually negotiated by the parties and their attorneys in an uncontested divorce. Court approval is required once the settlement agreement has been finalized.
A final divorce decree will be issued if the court finds that the agreement is fair and reasonable and in the best interest of the children.
Divorces without a trial or extensive court involvement are usually less costly and time-consuming than contested divorces.
As both parties can come to an agreement together, they also tend to be less emotionally taxing. In some cases, an uncontested divorce may not be appropriate, particularly if the parties cannot resolve significant disagreements through negotiation or mediation.
Residency requirements and other conditions must be properly alleged and proven for a divorce to be granted. Before you can file, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for six months and one of you must still reside in Virginia at the time of the filing.
Resolving Divorce through Settlement or Trial
While many people think divorce requires a trial, you may not have to go that route. Aggressive advocacy in divorce not only means having the willingness and ability to take a case to trial in court, but also recognizing the benefits of settling matters outside of court with a marital separation agreement. The attorneys at Butler Moss O'Neal, PLC, recognize that the ability to take a case to trial and the ability to successfully negotiate a case outside of court go hand-in-hand. They are both vital tools to achieve goals and reach the results that are most important to you.
Not only should you consider settlement as an option, but you should recognize the numerous benefits that settling outside of court can offer.
Our attorneys are committed to helping you understand all the advantages and disadvantages of both litigation and settlement as options to reach a satisfactory conclusion of your divorce. We bring exceptional experience and skills in helping our clients negotiate mutually-acceptable arrangements for everything from custody to an equitable distribution of assets.
Begin discussing your options with one of our Fredericksburg divorce lawyers in a consultation by calling (540) 306-5780 or by contacting us online today.
They made going through a divorce as pleasant as can be... they kept me laughing when I felt like crying.- L.F.
My spouse and I are separated. Is it ok to date another person?Legally, it is never advisable to date another person while you are involved in a domestic situation that may result in a divorce or custody suit. First, adultery is still adultery, even if the spouses are separated, and it is still a misdemeanor crime in Virginia. In addition, if adultery is proven in a divorce, the “guilty” party may lose the right to receive spousal support. Even if adultery is not committed, however, you still may be accused of it if your behavior indicates a romantic involvement with another person while you are still legally married. In child custody cases, the issue of exposure of the children to an adulterous relationship may become a serious issue. In short, while it may be very tempting, from a personal standpoint, to “date” others after the breakdown of an unhappy marriage, the legal consequences can be serious.
My spouse and I are living in separate rooms and not sleeping together. Does that mean we are "legally separated"?Not necessarily. Separation means that the husband and wife have ceased “cohabitation.” Cohabitation, in turn, is not one single behavior–such as sleeping together–but a collection of behaviors in which husbands and wives typically engage. These include, but are not limited to, eating together, performing household chores for one another, maintaining joint finances, and holding themselves out to the community as a couple. When all vestiges of cohabitation have ceased, the parties can be said to have “separated”, but this means more than not sleeping with or having sex with your spouse.
My spouse and I just separated. Do I need to file for "legal separation"?Virginia law does not have a statutory designation or category for people who are living in a state of separation from their spouses. The state of “legal separation” is commonly used to describe spouses who are no longer living together, where at least one of them has formed the intention to be permanently separated. But living in a state of separation does not itself confer any particular legal status beyond possibly giving one or both of the parties a ground to seek relief from the court–such as possible a divorce, spousal support, child custody, and child support, among others.
Do I have to be separated from my spouse for a year to get a final divorce?Not in all cases. If the ground of divorce is adultery, sodomy, buggery, or conviction of a felony resulting in a prison sentence of more than one year, there is no statutorily prescribed separation period**. For a divorce based on cruelty, desertion, or reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, you need to be separated for at least one year to be awarded a final divorce. A divorce can also be granted based upon intentional separation for a period of one year without proof of any fault on behalf of either party. Also, where the parties to a divorce have no children under the age of eighteen AND a separation agreement, the required period of separation is six months. In any case where a period of separation is required, the separation must be continuous for the entire period and must be accompanied by an intention to make it permanent at the commencement of the separation period. **Note, however, that a number of other statutory conditions DO apply to the granting of a divorce on these grounds.