When you get married, you never anticipate that one day, it will end in divorce. Unfortunately, despite your hopes and dreams, you may be at a point where you know that your relationship is over. At this point, you may decide to file for divorce.
In Virginia, there is both “fault” and “no-fault” divorce. You can also choose to pursue an uncontested divorce if you and your soon-to-be ex agree on basic issues like property division, child custody, child support, and alimony. A Virginia Beach divorce lawyer can shepherd you through the process, protecting your rights and your interests.
At Poole Brooke Plumlee, we are dedicated to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their family law cases. Whether you seek to resolve your divorce amicably or anticipate litigation, we will advocate for you. Reach out today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.
When Should You Contact a Virginia Beach Divorce Lawyer?
If you are contemplating getting divorced, then you should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. They can give you advice that is based on your specific situation and Virginia law. They can also help you develop a strategy for how to handle your divorce in a way that protects your interests.
For example, Virginia’s “desertion” grounds for divorce could potentially be triggered if you move out of the marital home without a separation agreement. It is important to understand your legal rights and how certain actions will impact them before you start moving forward in the divorce process.
A Virginia Beach divorce attorney can also advise you of important issues, like how property is divided in Virginia, what assets are considered separate for purposes of property division, how child custody is determined, and how spousal and child support are calculated. This can give you a better idea of what divorce will look like for you and will empower you to take steps to protect yourself.
If you decide to move forward with a divorce, your lawyer can help you decide what type of divorce to seek. For an uncontested divorce, they can work with you to negotiate a separation agreement. In many cases, their expert guidance will allow you to avoid the stress and expense of divorce litigation.
Grounds for Divorce in Virginia
When you prepare a petition for divorce in Virginia, you must provide a reason, known as grounds, for the divorce. Virginia offers both fault and no-fault grounds for a divorce. For a no-fault divorce, the grounds must be separation. To qualify for a no-fault divorce a couple must prove that they have lived separate and apart, without cohabitation for a continuous period of at least one year. If the couple has a separation agreement and no minor children between them, then the separation period can be shortened to 6 months.
There are 5 grounds for a fault divorce in Virginia. They include:
- Adultery, or having sexual relations with someone outside of your marriage. However, if you continue to have sex with your spouse after learning about the adultery or if it occurred more than 5 years before filing, the divorce cannot be granted based on adultery.
- Sodomy or buggery outside of the marriage, which includes sodomy (oral or anal intercourse) outside of the marriage, or buggery (sexual intercourse with an animal).
- Felony conviction after marriage of either spouse, where a spouse must be sentenced to and incarcerated for a period of more than a year. If the spouses resume sexual relations, then it cannot be grounds for divorce.
- Willful desertion or abandonment, which entails the termination of the normal indicia of a marital relationship (such as cooking, cleaning, support, contributing to the well-being of the family, sexual intimacy, and cohabitation) along with the intent of one spouse to terminate the marriage. Additionally, the desertion occurs without the consent and against the will of the other spouse. A divorce can be granted based on desertion after one year from the date of desertion. If there is an agreement to separate, then this can be used as a defense to a desertion claim.
- Cruelty, which involves bodily harm or reasonable fear of bodily harm. Cruelty generally is limited to physical cruelty, except for extreme cases of mental cruelty that effectively endanger life or health. A divorce can be granted based on cruelty after one year from the act of cruelty.
Proving fault can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. However, there are certain benefits to proving that your spouse was at fault for the divorce – in some circumstances. For example, a spouse who committed adultery cannot receive alimony unless it would be manifestly unjust to deny them spousal support.
Courts can also take other fault issues into consideration when determining alimony and issues like the distribution of marital property. Keep in mind that fault is just one factor that goes into these decisions, so it may ultimately not be worth it to pursue a fault divorce. Your Virginia Beach divorce lawyer can help you decide whether it is worth it to file a fault divorce.
The Divorce Process
The divorce process starts with the filing of divorce papers in a Virginia Circuit Court. Before filing this paperwork, however, you must decide if you are filing a fault or no-fault divorce. Before a no-fault divorce can be filed, you must live separate from your spouse without cohabitation for one continuous year (or six months if there is already a separation agreement and no minor children from the marriage). If you do not meet this requirement, then you will either have to wait until enough time has passed to file for a no-fault divorce or seek a fault-based divorce. As described above, a fault-based divorce requires proof that your spouse has engaged in certain behavior. A fault-based divorce is often more stressful and expensive.
For the divorce to be considered uncontested, you must have a separation agreement with your spouse. This agreement should cover any outstanding issues in your divorce, such as the division of property and debts, alimony, child custody, visitation, and child support. An alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method like mediation can often be used to work out the issues between you and your spouse and come to a separation agreement.
For a divorce to be granted in Virginia, one of the parties must be a resident and domiciliary of Virginia at the time of the filing of the divorce and for at least 6 months prior to the filing. If you meet this requirement and have one of the grounds of divorce discussed above, you can file the initial divorce paperwork, called a complaint, and then serve the papers on your spouse.
Once your spouse has been served with the divorce papers, then the next phase of the process begins. For a contested divorce, your spouse generally has 21 days to file a response to the complaint. The case will then go through discovery – when both sides exchange information and documents – and court hearings may occur. If the parties can’t come to an agreement, then the case may go to trial before a judge grants a divorce.
For an uncontested divorce, it may be possible to finalize a divorce without having any hearings in court. If both parties can agree on all of the issues – such as dividing up retirement accounts and deciding who gets the house – then it may be possible to simply file the separation agreement and some other paperwork with the court to get a divorce decree. A Virginia Beach divorce attorney can guide you through this process.
The length of time that it takes to get a divorce will depend on several factors. For an uncontested divorce where the parties have come to an agreement, a final divorce could be granted in just a few months after the agreement is reached and the divorce is filed. If no agreement is reached and contested litigation ensues, it could take a year or longer after the divorce is filed for it to be granted, meaning that if the divorce was filed a year after a separation, the total separation and divorce process could take over two years. Having a Virginia Beach divorce attorney on your side can help provide some degree of control over the total time it takes to get a divorce.
Can You Settle My Divorce Outside of Court?
Yes. For both contested and uncontested divorces, you can work out an agreement with your soon-to-be-ex at any point in time before the filing of the divorce and also after the divorce is filed up until a final court decision is made. As long as your settlement agreement covers all of the required issues and you have filled out and filed the correct paperwork, then you will be able to get divorced.
Mediation or even just negotiation between the two parties’ attorneys can often help move this process forward. Working out an agreement outside of court is often far less costly and less time-consuming. Reach out to Poole Brooke Plumlee to talk to a Virginia Beach divorce lawyer about your options for getting divorced.
Can You Get an Annulment in Virginia?
An annulment is essentially a legal declaration that no valid marriage exists. It can only be granted under certain limited circumstances such as bigamy, incest, when one spouse is under the legal age to be married and is not emancipated, and a few other situations.
Annulments are uncommon, but if a proper ground exists, the benefits can be substantial for the spouse that controls the finances, has sole title to major assets, and earns all or most of the family income. An annulment cuts off the other spouse’s right to spousal support and equitable distribution of property. However, divorce usually is the only way to end your marriage. If you are contemplating divorce or annulment, call Poole Brooke Plumlee to talk to a Virginia Beach divorce lawyer.
Reach Out to Poole Brooke Plumlee to talk to a Virginia Divorce Lawyer
The decision to get a divorce can be a complicated one. If you are contemplating ending your marriage, you will need advice and guidance from a skilled family law attorney. Our law firm is here for you.
Poole Brooke Plumlee has substantial experience in all types of Virginia family law matters, including divorce. We will collaborate with you to learn more about what you hope to achieve in your divorce, and then work hard to help you get the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach divorce attorney, give our law offices a call at 757-499-1841 or fill out our online contact form.