Norfolk Divorce Attorney
The day you got married was probably one of the happiest days of your life. At the time it might have been inconceivable that your marriage would not last forever. Unfortunately, not all marriages work out. And once that decision has been made, taking the necessary legal steps is an essential part to ensuring that you will be able to put your marriage behind you and start the next chapter in your life. At Garrett Law Group, PLC, our mission is to ensure your divorce case ends in a way that allows you to start off your new life on the best foot possible.
Virginia Divorce Requirements
Virginia Code §§ 20-91 and 20-95 require there to be “grounds” for a divorce to exist before a court may enter a final decree of divorce. The particular grounds must exist prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce. Virginia law is very limited on what qualifies as a ground for divorce.
Divorce From Bed & Board
In Virginia, there is no such condition as “legally separated”. Under the law, you are either married or you are not married. However, Virginia does allow for a Divorce From Bed and Board (a mensa et thoro) based on the grounds of desertion or abandonment, or on the grounds of physical cruelty or a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
When someone is granted a Divorce From Bed and Board, they are granted only a partial, or qualified, divorce, and as such may not marry someone else. However, for all other practical purposes, the parties are legally separated. For instance, one party may not be obligated for any subsequent debt incurred by the other party, and each party may pursue other romantic relationships, just may not marry.
A Divorce From Bed and Board may be merged into a Divorce From the Bond of Matrimony (see below) after a one year period.
Divorce From The Bond of Matrimony
An absolute divorce, or Divorce From the Bonds of Matrimony (a vinculo matrimonii), is what comes to mind when people think of “divorce” in the true sense. Under Virginia law, a complete and absolute divorce may be granted on the grounds of adultery, if one party is convicted of a felony (and must be confined on a sentence of at least one year), or after the parties have lived separate and apart for one year. The latter ground is commonly referred to as a “no fault” divorce.
Virginia Residency Requirement For Divorce
Virginia Code § 20-97 requires that one party must be a resident of Virginia for at least six months prior to the filing of a Complaint for Divorce.
In Virginia, either party may file a Complaint for Divorce so long as there are grounds existing to support the divorce and they meet the residency requirement. Once the Complaint is filed, the spouse must be served a copy of the Complaint, and they will then have 21 days to file a response to the Complaint.
The vast majority of divorce filings either begin as uncontested divorce filings, or they become uncontested after a period of negotiation where the parties reach a settlement agreement. An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which all issues, including property distribution, support issues, and child custody and visitation, have been settled and there are no other disputes.
Uncontested divorces can typically be concluded within 30 days, from the date of filing until the date the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce, provided both parties cooperate to sign the required documents in a timely manner.
A contested divorce arises when there exists any single issue, or any number of issues, in dispute. The issues that may be in dispute can range from arguments over the grounds for divorce, to disputing property distribution or debt allocation, to disagreements over time sharing schedules involving minor children.
Depending on the number of contested issues, and the complexity of each of those issues, a contested divorce will typically take at least 12 to 15 months to conclude, with some cases lasting as long as 18 to 24 months.
At any point prior to the filing of a Complaint for Divorce, or any point afterwards, the parties may enter into an agreement on issues affecting the divorce. Separation agreements may be general in nature, or extremely comprehensive and detailed. The particular circumstances of the parties will dictate the degree of their particular agreement.
Under Virginia law, a court may ratify and affirm the agreement prior to the divorce decree being entered, or the court may reference the agreement within the divorce decree. Having a separation agreement significantly reduces the time to complete the divorce, and is financially beneficial to both parties.
Virginia Code § 20-107.1 permits the court to award spousal support to either party. The court is required to consider certain factors, including length of the marriage, the needs of the party seeking spousal support, and the ability of the party being asked to pay spousal support. Modification of a spousal support order is permitted upon a showing of a “material change in circumstances” since the entry of the spousal support order. If spousal support is agreed upon by the parties, and that agreement is referenced in the spousal support order, it is very unlikely the court will modify the amount. If, however, the court determined and then ordered spousal support to be awarded, and there has been a “material change in circumstances”, the court has the discretion to modify the spousal support amount.
Once you have made the decision to file for a divorce or separation, it is important to determine your legal options as soon as possible. Filing paperwork incorrectly or not taking the steps to protect yourself may result in you incurring unnecessary fees, your divorce or separation being unnecessarily delayed, or the court may dismiss your filing. Contact our office today to discuss your legal options and to take the first step of getting your life back on track.
Reach us by phone (757) 422-4646 or click here to contact us. We are here to help.