We’ve all heard horror stories about divorce cases that drag on for years and end up costing a fortune.
However, in Virginia, depending on how you file your case, you can finish your divorce in much less time.
In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of divorce in Virginia, and give a rough estimate for how long each one takes.
Uncontested No-Fault Divorce Timeline
Let’s start with what is, for most people, the most common way to get a divorce in Virginia: an uncontested no-fault divorce.
This type of divorce has two distinct elements:
- Uncontested — You and your spouse agree on every element of your divorce, including both the terms of your divorce (i.e. how you’ll divide your property) and the grounds for your divorce (the “no-fault” distinction below).
- No-Fault — You and your spouse agree to file for divorce based on a period of separation rather than any specific fault such as adultery.
The reason that this is the most common type of divorce is that it’s also usually the easiest way to get divorced in Virginia.
By filing for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse don’t have to waste time and resources arguing out the terms of your divorce in front of a judge.
This can be done informally by mutual agreement or formally through drafting and signing a property settlement agreement.
Similarly, by filing for a “no-fault” divorce there’s no need to prove any specific reason for your divorce.
Instead, all you have to do is live separate and apart from your spouse for one year.
Further, if you have no children, and have completed a property settlement agreement, you only have to live apart for six months before filing for divorce.
How to file for an uncontested no-fault divorce
As mentioned above, filing for this type of divorce can be quite easy. In fact, the actual “divorce” process can take as little as a few weeks.
Basically, after waiting out the separation period mentioned above (either six months or a year), you must file the necessary paperwork with the proper court.
You should contact an attorney to find out exactly what paperwork you should submit and where you should submit it.
The court will generally process your divorce petition within three months of the date you file your divorce petition.
Once the judge signs your divorce, it will go into effect immediately, and your divorce process will end.
In this way, the uncontested divorce process will take roughly seven to fifteen months to complete in full.
If you and your spouse already meet the separation requirement, it will instead take between one and three months.
Contested No-Fault Divorce Timeline
The process described above hinges on you and your spouse being able to come to an agreement on all terms of your divorce.
If you or your spouse disagrees on any significant element of your divorce, your divorce will instead become “contested.”
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse will appear before a judge or mediator to work out the contested element of your divorce.
For example, if you agree on every element of your divorce except for how you’ll split your assets, you may have to have a judge divide them for you.
As you can imagine, this can be an incredibly time-consuming process.
To initiate this type of divorce, you must first fulfill the same six to twelve-month separation requirement discussed above before you can even file for a divorce.
Then, you’ll have to undergo the nine-step Virginia contested divorce process.
Ultimately, the length of this process will depend on how committed you are to fighting out your issues in court.
If you go through the entire process, you should expect it to take at least a year. However, it’s also common for contested divorces to last multiple years depending on the circumstances.
Fault-Based Divorces in Virginia
From a legal perspective, fault-based divorces raise several complications which can lengthen your overall divorce process.
As noted above, a fault-based divorce occurs when one party alleges that the other is “at fault” for the divorce due to one of the following grounds:
- Non-consensual abandonment or neglect
- Cruelty (generally multiple instances of physical abuse)
- Conviction of a felony that leads to more than one year of imprisonment
In a fault-based divorce, you must prove that your spouse was responsible for one or more of the above acts.
You will also have to show that this action was the primary reason for the divorce.
One notable aspect of filing for a fault-based divorce is that you may be able to file more quickly than a no-fault divorce.
This is because the “grounds” for your divorce is the actual fault itself, and not the six-month to one-year period of separation.
If you are basing your divorce on a felony conviction or an instance of adultery, you may instead be eligible for an immediate absolute divorce.
However, if you are filing for divorce based on abandonment or cruelty, the one year of separation is still required to finalize the divorce.
In either scenario, however, you must prove the accusation in court before proceeding.
While it’s easy to prove a felony conviction (as the court will have a record of the case), it can be difficult to prove adultery or cruelty in court.
For this reason, it’s not uncommon for couples filing for a fault-based divorce to amend their case to a no-fault divorce after reaching the six-month to one-year period of separation requirement noted above.
Bed and Board Divorce
If you are filing for a fault-based divorce on grounds of cruelty or abandonment, you may be eligible for a bed and board divorce.
This is effectively a “legal separation” where you and your spouse go through many of the processes of absolute divorce, but remain legally married.
The biggest benefit of a bed and board divorce is that it separates you and your spouse’s property immediately.
It also allows you to begin dealing with issues surrounding child custody, dividing your shared assets, and the like without having to wait out the mandatory period of separation.
At the end of a year-long separation period mentioned above, you and your spouse may petition the court for an absolute divorce, so long as you have not reconciled in that time.
Ultimately, your best bet for avoiding a long, expensive divorce is to get in touch with a good Virginia family lawyer as early as possible.
An experienced Virginia family attorney can walk you through the divorce process, and predict what issues you are likely to run into.
Further, they can help advise you on the type of divorce most applicable to your specific situation.