As a general rule, an uncontested divorce in Virginia is quicker, easier and less expensive than a contested divorce.
For this reason, spouses usually prefer to have an uncontested divorce. However, not every divorce qualifies as “uncontested” in the Commonwealth.
There are certain requirements you and your spouse must meet to have an uncontested divorce.
In this article, we’ll quickly describe the basic rules and laws you need to know if you’re planning on filing an uncontested divorce in Virginia.
Is Your Divorce Actually Uncontested?
In Virginia, your divorce qualifies as uncontested if both you and your spouse agree on every issue in your divorce.
In most cases, you will show this by drafting and signing a joint separation agreement which divides up all of your assets and responsibilities for after the divorce is finalized.
If you have minor children, you must also include provisions for child support, visitation, custody, and insurance coverage for the children in this separation agreement.
Eligibility for Uncontested Divorce in Virginia
Even if you and your spouse agree on all issues in your divorce, you are not automatically eligible for an uncontested divorce in Virginia.
If you have no minor children, you must also live separate and apart from your spouse for at least 6 months before you can qualify for an uncontested divorce.
If there are minor children in the picture, you must have been separated for 1 year before filing.
In addition, the spouse filing for divorce must have been a resident of Virginia for at least 6 months at the date of filing.
The residency requirement must be shown by credible testimony and can be corroborated by a third-party witness.
As noted above, in order to be eligible for an uncontested divorce in Virginia you and your spouse must be living separately for at least six months (or one year if there are children).
Even one night spent together during this period technically disqualifies you for an uncontested divorce.
To prove physical separation of your living situation, you will likely need a witness to testify to your separate living situations.
Only the spouse filing must be able to prove residency for at least 6 months in the district where they are filing for divorce.
It is not required that your spouse live in the same state, but if your spouse does live in another state you must also follow that state’s procedures for serving him or her with papers.
To prove your residency, you may show the Circuit Court Clerk’s office your voter registration, bank account address, or by merely submitting a personal sworn complaint.
“Grounds of Separation”
As one other note, in Virginia, you must have a “legal reason” for your divorce. This legal reason is called your “grounds of separation.”
For most uncontested divorces, you typically don’t need a specific ground of separation, as you’ll instead be filing for a “no-fault” divorce.
Essentially, if you choose this route then your grounds of separation will simply be “we don’t want to be married anymore.”
However, you must otherwise meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce.
Virginia Uncontested Divorce FAQ
Below, we’ll list a few of the most commonly asked questions about filing for an uncontested divorce in Virginia.
Do I have to go to court?
Some uncontested divorces in Virginia will go before a judge in Circuit Court. Others will be heard by a commissioner or heard through a deposition or affidavit.
If you want to avoid having a formal hearing, you should request a hearing by deposition or affidavit.
This method involves submitting signed and sworn documents to the court, as opposed to pleading your cases before a judge or commissioner.
Put another way, yes, you can avoid going to court by simply filling out some paperwork at your lawyer’s office.
For further examples of the filing requirements for each method, check out this packet from Virginia Beach.
How much does it cost to file for an uncontested divorce in Virginia?
While not the most specific answer, “far less than how much you’ll pay for a contested divorce” isn’t far off from the truth.
There are several costs you’ll have to consider when filing for an uncontested divorce.
However, as a rough estimate, you can file all the paperwork for an uncontested divorce for a few hundred dollars.
For instance, every member of the public has free access to the forms needed to file for divorce in Virginia.
However, there are filing fees for most of these forms.
For example, there is usually an $85 filing fee when you submit your paperwork.
There is also a $12 fee if you choose to have the sheriff’s office serve your spouse, and there may also be fees attached to changing your name as a result of the divorce.
If you decide to hire an attorney, you will definitely pay more than this, but it’s still far cheaper than what you would pay for an at-fault or contested divorce.
Further, you can save a lot of time and headaches by doing it correctly the first time.
Filing for an uncontested divorce is usually both cheaper and quicker than fighting it out in court.
Unlike contested divorces, the spouses can come to an agreement outside of court for how they’d like to divide their assets and responsibilities.
If you have any questions about filing for uncontested divorce, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney.
Even if you only ask them to read over the documents you’ve prepared, it’s often much safer and quicker than filing everything yourself.