The Divorce Process in Virginia

When searching for the best divorce lawyers in Northern Virginia, it is important to evaluate law firms and attorneys who have extensive experience in handling divorce and its related legal issues, such as division of property, child custody, and spousal support.

What follows are some of the most common questions presented to our Fairfax divorce lawyers by a person who is interested in initiating a divorce petition. Our Fairfax divorce attorneys can help you navigate this complex process and understand the many different decisions and possible outcomes that could affect you in the process.

How Long Do I Have to Live in Virginia Prior to Filing for A Virginia Divorce?

At least one of the parties to the divorce must have been and remained a resident of Virginia for a minimum of 6 months prior to the filing of the divorce action. If one or both parties meet these qualifications, either spouse can file for a divorce in Virginia.

Residency requirements for Virginia divorce can also be met if a member of the armed forces has been stationed in Virginia for a minimum of 6 months, is living on a military base within Virginia or lives on a ship with a home port in Virginia.

Does Fault Matter in a Virginia Divorce?

Virginia does allow for a no-fault divorce, which requires that you and your soon to be former spouse live separately from one another for a minimum of one year with no periods of living together during that time. In the event that there are no minor children and you use a legally valid separation agreementthe no-fault divorce separation requirement is only 6 months long.

Even though no-fault divorce is legal in Virginia, Virginia does have fault-based grounds on which a party can initiate divorce. Fault divorce grounds include the reasonable fear of bodily harm, abandonment by one spouse, a felony conviction by the other spouse with a sentence of a minimum of one year and prison time, or adultery and other sexual acts that occur outside the marriage.

A party who initiates a Virginia divorce on fault grounds should have significant evidence and be prepared that the other party might defend themselves against these allegations.

What Is Required to File for Virginia Divorce?

The party seeking the divorce will initiate a complaint in Virginia Circuit Court. This is usually filed in the county or city in which at least one of those spouses live. Proper filing fees must be submitted at the time the complaint is filed.

The complaint has to include details about the place and date of the marriage, residency requirements, divorce grounds, current living arrangements, and the living arrangements and ages of any children associated with the marriage. This paperwork, known as the summons and the complaint, is then served on the other party to formally notify him or her about the new divorce actions.

The next phase of the process involves that spouse responding, typically after hiring Fairfax divorce lawyers.

How Does Spousal Support Work in Virginia?

Statutory law in Virginia covers the criteria that a judge has to consider when making decisions in an alimony case. However, very little to no guidance is given to courts in making a determination as to how much spousal support should be paid or for how long spousal support should last.

Anyone filing for a divorce should know that there is no entitlement or right to spousal support in Virginia and alimony is evaluated on a case by case basis. The judge will look at various criteria before making a spousal support determination, such as the duration of the marriage, the needs and financial resources of the parties, the contributions of each party to the marriage, and the earning capacity, education and training of those parties.

How Does Virginia Property Division Work?

Virginia courts divide property in a couple’s divorce through a concept referred to as equitable distribution. The property is divided between the spouses in a manner that either they agree to on their own or by the courts.

The courts look at the economic factors for both spouses in order to determine the equitable distribution. This means that the property might not necessarily be divided equally, but rather in a manner that the judge sees as being equitable. Couples can, of course, always agree on their own property division outside of court or during the case.

Who Gets Custody of the Kids in a Virginia Divorce?

As with many divorce-related issues, the parties can come to their own arrangements on what’s best for them and the kids. This document is known as the parenting plan and can be drafted by Fairfax divorce lawyers and signed by both parents.

If the parents are not able to come to their own agreement, however, this becomes the responsibility of the judge. The judge evaluates factors to decide what is in the best interests of the child.

The judge considers several factors, include the physical and mental condition of the children, the relationship each parent has with the children, the needs of the child, and each parent’s willingness to promote a loving relationship with the other parent. Child custody is usually one of the most hotly contested aspects of a divorce and is a leading reason why spouses hire an experienced divorce attorney in Fairfax, VA.

Do I Really Need Divorce Lawyers in Northern Virginia?

It might seem at the outset of your divorce that you and your spouse will be able to come to terms of agreement on all relevant issues for ending the marriage. However, it is strongly recommended that you retain the services of experienced Fairfax divorce lawyers to know what to anticipate and in the event that you and your spouse are not able to come to terms of agreement on your own.

As many divorce lawyers in Fairfax, VA can tell you, sometimes the other party will change their mind about issues such as division of property or child custody and this can make it impossible to resolve divorce related issues outside of court.

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