Getting divorced is no fun. If you have kids, it is worse. Husband or wife, young or old, talk to your friends who have gotten divorced and you will hear horror stories. But, you might also hear a few individuals jokingly say, “why is divorce so expensive. . . . because it is worth it.”
Unfortunately, not all marriages work out. When the decision is made to get divorced, you want the process to be as simple, inexpensive and amicable as possible. You also want a dedicated advocate fighting for you when necessary. Joanna Foard leads General Counsel, P.C.’s Family Law Practice. As you can see in her Avvo Profile, her clients love her.
Provided below is a condensed guide to divorce in Virginia. Click Guide to Divorce for full guide.
The idea of filing for divorce may be overwhelming. Below, is a quick primer on things an individual should consider before filing for divorce and while going through the process.
Property division will be one of the most important aspects of a divorce. If spouses are able to agree on property division, they can enter into a separation agreement confirming the division.
If spouses are not able to agree on property division, the court will decide. Virginia courts follow the “equitable distribution” method of property division. Under this method, the court will attempt to divide marital assets and debts between the spouses fairly, but not necessarily equally. \
Marital property is jointly owned property and other property (other than separate property) obtained from the date of marriage through separation. Separate property is all property acquired by one spouse prior to marriage and property obtained during marriage by inheritance or gift (other than a gift by a spouse). Separate property does not get divided by the court and instead remains with the spouse who acquired it.
If a couple has children, issues related to those children will be one of the largest considerations during a divorce. Spouses preparing for divorce should consider how they will co-parent. Who will have legal custody of children? Who will have physical custody?
Physical custody refers to where a child spends the majority of his or her time. Legal custody refers to the right to make important health, education, and welfare decisions for a child.
Custody and visitation matters can be settled through negotiation or mediation between the parties. However, if the parents are unable to agree, they may petition the court to decide these issues.
Spouses are also free to enter into separation agreements establishing spousal and child support, if the parties are able to agree. If the parents are unable to agree, they may petition the court to decide these issues. Even if the parties enter into an agreement establishing child support, the court must approve the agreement to ensure it’s in the best interests of the child.
The Virginia Code sets out the guidelines used for determining child support obligations. The guidelines consider the number of children that need support and the parents’ combined monthly gross income, as well as custody arrangements.
An individual must be a legal resident in Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce. Virginia allows both fault and no-fault divorce. The fault grounds authorized in Virginia include adultery, felony, cruelty and desertion. Alternatively, a spouse may file for “no-fault divorce” after separation.
If the couple has minor children, they must be separated for one year before filing for divorce. If the couple doesn’t have children, they can file for divorce after living separately for six months, if both spouses enter into a separation agreement establishing how property will be divided.
Filing for divorce in Virginia generally consists of filing certain forms with your local circuit court. Filing these forms starts the divorce process. After an individual files the divorce forms, their spouse needs to be “served.”
The divorce process doesn’t look the same for all couples. Generally, the level of contention between spouses will dictate how the process goes. More amicable spouses may be able to proceed with a more informal alternative dispute resolution divorce. If spouses are able to agree on matters, they may file for an uncontested divorce.
Alternatively, if the divorce is contentious, the couple will need the court to make relevant determinations. An uncontested divorce or divorce handled through alternative dispute resolution will typically be resolved more quickly and less expensively than a traditional litigated divorce.
Getting divorced can be a difficult and expensive process. However, it does not have to be. The goal is to amicably resolve the marriage – make sure any kids are cared for – and be able to move forward with your respective lives. General Counsel, P.C.’s family law attorneys can help. You can email Joanna Foard at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 703-556-0411.
Ask General Counsel is bi-monthly InsideNoVa srticle contributed by the attorneys of General Counsel, P.C. If you have any topics you would like address, email them at AskGC@gcpc.com.