Where to Start
WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS I NEED TO TAKE TO GET A DIVORCE?
IN VIRGINIA, WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP IN STARTING THE DIVORCE PROCESS?
File a Complaint
The very first step in the actual divorce process is filing a Complaint for Divorce. Even where both spouses agree that they want to get divorced, one of them will have to be the one to file a Complaint with the court asking for the divorce. The Complaint will have to state the grounds for the divorce.
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR FILING FOR AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE IN VIRGINIA?
In an uncontested divorce the grounds will be that the parties have been living separate and apart (No Fault) for a period of either six (6) months, if they have no minor children, or for one (1) year if they do have minor children.
AFTER THE INITIAL FILING FOR DIVORCE IN VIRGINIA, WHAT IS NEXT?
Service of Process
The next step for the party filing for divorce is to obtain proof of service of process on the other party. Service of process can be either respectful and dignified or undignified. If the parties mutually agree on the divorce, it is best for the party who files the complaint to arrange for service of process by having the other party “accept service” by signing the Complaint before a notary public, or having the other party’s attorney accept it for them. Having a process server or Sheriff visit one’s spouse at his or her place of employment to serve papers falls into the undignified category.
The party who receives service of process will then need to file a response to the petition, or simply waive any further process (for an uncontested case) to expedite the divorce.
WHAT IF MY SPOUSE DISPUTES THE GROUNDS FOR OUR VIRGINIA DIVORCE FILING?
If a divorce was sought on fault grounds and the responding party wants to dispute those grounds, he or she will need to address it in the response. The responding party may choose to dispute the facts that are alleged to be the grounds for divorce or he or she may choose to assert a defense to the grounds. If there is disagreement as to property division, support, custody, or any other issue, this should be set out in the response.
IF BOTH PARTNERS AGREE ON THE DIVORCE, DO WE HAVE TO GO TO COURT?’
However, if you and your spouse can agree on these matters, you can get an inexpensive “No Fault” divorce without ever going to court!
WHAT HAPPENS IF BOTH PARTIES DON’T AGREE ON ALL DIVORCE ISSUES OR TERMS?
If the parties don’t agree on all the issues, the next step requires that they try to negotiate their differences. The court may schedule settlement conferences that attempt to move the parties toward a final resolution of the issues. If the parties disagree on child custody and visitation, the court may also order mediation, or that a lawyer or guardian ad litem be appointed to represent the children. Other issues that may need to be negotiated are the property division and any spousal support.
WHEN IS A DIVORCE IN VIRGINIA LIKELY TO GO TO TRIAL?
Any issues that the parties absolutely cannot resolve between themselves will have to be decided by the judge at a trial. However, going to trial will take longer, cost more money, and have less predictable results so it is probably best to avoid going to trial if possible.
WHAT IS THE FINAL STEP IN COMPLETING THE DIVORCE PROCESS IN VIRGINIA?
Final Order of Divorce
The Final Order of Divorce ends the marriage and states how the property and debts are to be divided, custody, support and any other issues. When the parties negotiate a resolution of all of the issues, the attorneys will draft a settlement agreement and the Final Order of Divorce to submit to the court. If the Order complies with legal requirements and both parties entered into it knowingly and willingly, then the judge will approve it. Otherwise the court will decide all of those personal matters, and will issue its opinion in a Final Order of Divorce at the end of the trial.
HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ON WHERE TO START?
If you are going through a divorce, be sure to call us to discuss your options. When you and your spouse want to handle the divorce outside of court, we can guide you through an inexpensive cooperative separation process.
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To discuss your questions and understand your options, call (703) 537-0444 or click here to request your free VA fast divorce consultation with our attorneys.