If you are considering divorce, you’ve probably got at least two questions: how much will it cost and how long will it take? Unfortunately, because each situation is different, there are no simple, definitive answers to these questions. Nevertheless, we will try to answer the latter here.
To begin with, let’s suppose that you and your husband or wife have agreed to an “amicable” divorce. This means that you have already come to terms for separation that you can both live with, and there’s no need for further discussions about how to split your assets, debts and so forth. It also means that there’s no need for us as Northern Virginia divorce lawyers to intervene in issues such as child custody and similar matters.
Even if this is the case, Virginia law mandates that you two do not live together for at least a year before you can initiate legal proceedings. That being stated, you can file for uncontested divorce after only six months apart if you don’t have any children under age 18 and you have a signed separation agreement.In this context, legal separation consists not only of physical separation, but also the intent to be apart.
In this type of divorce, there is a way to avoid court. You can do so by asking to have the matter heard by affidavit, instead of a court hearing. Specifically, you can provide a written explanation of your reasons for divorce and related issues, called a deposition. It is reviewed and given to a judge for approval. Although this can hasten the process, there is no definitive timeframe for review and completion. This is because the timeline is subject to the schedule of the judge handling your case.
So, to sum things up, even in an uncontested divorce, it is impossible to predict how long it will take to finalize the matter. To a large extent, it depends on how soon you reach a settlement and how long it takes the court to review and approve your case.In a best-case scenario, everything could be wrapped up in as little as six to eight weeks.
A divorce in which you and your spouse are at odds over one or more issues is called a contested divorce. In these circumstances, it is up to the judge to determine how your debts and assets are split. Depending on your situation, the judge may also have to make determinations on related issues, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony and so on.
Depending on the circumstances, this type of divorce may also be classified as “fault” or “no fault.”The former is used to describe a situation in which you claim the other person did something to ruin the marriage. In Virginia , the basis for fault-based divorce includes:
- Adultery, sodomy or buggery (having sex relations with an animal) committed by either of you
- A felony conviction
- Deliberate desertion or abandonment lasting for at least one year, and
- Cruelty by one spouse that causes the other reasonable fear of bodily harm
One thing to be aware of here is that simple accusations regarding any or all of the above are insufficient. If you are going to file for fault-based divorce, you must be prepared to prove the other party did what you are alleging. Depending on the nature of the allegations, the burden of proof can be quite high. This means you need an accomplished Fairfax divorce lawyer on your side.
Secondly, Virginia courts don’t appreciate it when divorcing couples invent fault-based grounds solely for the purposes of getting divorced faster. If the court determines that you have done so, your case will be dismissed and you will need to start divorce proceedings from the beginning.
The latter is important, because a contested divorce will invariably take longer [ab4] than an uncontested divorce. Even if you file a fault-based divorce, which could theoretically allow you to skip the one-year or six-month waiting periods, the ensuing process tends to get bogged down by technical requirements. If you file a no-fault divorce, you’ll have to be separated for a year prior to initiating divorce proceedings.
Finally, you should be aware that you are always free to change your mind. Just because you initially file a fault-based or contested divorce does not mean you are committed to that path. You can switch to no-fault or uncontested proceedings. In any case, it will probably take at least a year to resolve the matter – or more depending on the what kind of issues are in dispute and how many there are.
To get the ball rolling, talk to our qualified Fairfax divorce attorneys about your situation. Based on the information you provide, we can provide legal advice about your separation and divorce. We can also devise a strategy for handling your divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible. Contact us to arrange your free consultation, today. Featured