Making the decision to divorce may be one of the hardest things that you ever have to do. What’s more, deciding to end your marriage isn’t as simple as just finding a new place to call your own and living life solo. Dissolving a marriage is a potentially complex legal process. The process not only requires that a judge sign a divorce decree in order for the marriage dissolution to be valid, it also requires that parties resolve various issues, such as how property will be divided and who will have custody of the kids, before the process can be finalized.
At the law office of St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana, LLP, our Virginia family law attorneys offer the guidance and representation that you need when you are facing a divorce. We have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to ensure that their rights and interests are fully protected during this difficult process. Contact our firm today for a consultation and more information about how we can help you.
Seeking Divorce in Virginia: Types of Divorce
The first thing that is important to note about getting a divorce in Virginia is that the state recognizes two distinct types of divorce: divorce from bed and board, and a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.
As explained by the Virginia State Bar, a divorce from bed and board is a type of partial divorce where parties are legally separated, but neither spouse is allowed to remarry. On the other hand, a divorce from the bond of matrimony is a complete dissolution of the marriage. Parties who have a divorce from bed and board may legally merge their divorce into a divorce from the bond of matrimony if they choose to do so, so long as at least one year has passed from the original date of separation.
Grounds for Divorce in Virginia
The type of divorce that you seek in Virginia may depend on the grounds for which you are seeking the dissolution of your marriage. If a party is seeking a divorce based on willful abandonment or desertion or cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, then they will seek a divorce from bed and board. As a note, if desertion has lasted for at least one year from the original date of separation, then the deserted spouse may file for a divorce from the bond of matrimony. Further, a divorce from the bond of matrimony may also be sought after one year from the date that the acts of cruelty were committed.
If you are not seeking a divorce based on desertion or cruelty, then you may file for a divorce from the bond of matrimony based on:
- Adultery, sodomy, or bigamy; or
- Conviction of a felony.
Most divorcing parties in Virginia choose the first ground for divorce – separation, also called the “no-fault” divorce. Parties seeking a no-fault divorce, as the name would imply, do not need to offer any proof that the other party did anything wrong in order to warrant the marriage dissolution; instead, parties must live separate and apart without cohabitation for a time period of no less than one year. The one-year waiting requirement is shortened to six months if parties do not have any children and an agreement regarding the various issues in the divorce has been reached.
Reaching a Settlement in a Virginia Divorce
Regardless of the amount of time that you and your spouse have been living separately, until you reach a property settlement/separation agreement, a judge will not finalize your divorce. Our lawyers understand how complicated reaching an agreement/settlement can be, and offer guidance and representation with regards to the following:
- Property Division. You and your spouse must come to an agreement regarding how property will be divided between you. Virginia law holds that property division must be equitable, and that only marital property (property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage) is eligible for division. Keep in mind that marital debt is subject to equitable division as well.
- Alimony/Spousal Support. A spousal support award, also called alimony, is a common part of many divorce settlements in Virginia. The purpose of spousal support is to provide the financially dependent spouse with enough financial support that they can reasonably provide for their needs. The amount of spousal support a court awards to a support-seeking spouse is based on a number of different factors.
- Child Support. If divorcing parents have children and one parent plans to be the primary caregiver while the other will maintain visitation rights, a child support order will be part of the divorce settlement. All parents in Virginia have an obligation to provide for their children; child support is designed to ensure that this obligation is satisfied.
- Child Custody. Of all of the issues that must be resolved in a divorce, there are few more contentious than child custody. When parents cannot reach a child custody arrangement on their own, a court will intervene, ultimately basing its decision on the best interests of the child.
Is Working with a Divorce Attorney Necessary?
There is no requirement for either spouse in a divorce to retain the counsel of an attorney; however, working with an attorney is strongly encouraged. Your attorney plays many different roles during the divorce process, including:
- Obtaining and filling out divorce papers on your behalf;
- Filing all papers with the court and ensuring that your spouse is served or that you respond to a petition to divorce within the required timeframe;
- Assisting you in understanding the various issues in a divorce and the resolutions that must be achieved before the process is finalized;
- Representing you in conversations and negotiations with your spouse, including all those pertaining to a property agreement/divorce settlement; and
- Representing you in litigation if out-of-court resolution is not a viable option.
Your attorney also serves as a resource to answer any questions you have throughout the process, as well as an advocate for your best interests. In fact, even if you have an uncontested divorce, having your attorney review an agreement is always recommended.
Contact Our Virginia Divorce Lawyers Today
For a consultation with one of the skilled Virginia divorce attorneys at the office of St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana, LLP, call our office today at 434-296-7138. You may also send us a message using the intake form on our website or stop by our Charlottesville office at your convenience. Our lawyers have more than 110 years of combined legal experience and have received national recognition for their legal services.