‘I’m filing for divorce!’, this is a statement of intent from a spouse in marriage and marks the end of a marriage that no partner wishes to happen. But sadly, divorce is a fact of life and a proceeding that is all too common these days.
In Virginia, the circuit court system of the state takes care of all divorce cases. Couples wishing to divorce in Virginia can decide to take the limited divorce or absolute divorce route.
The former operates in the same way as a separation agreement. There are explicit restrictions imposed by circuit court decree on the limited divorcing couple. For starters, limited divorce is not a permanent divorce arrangement, and neither couple can remarry or unilaterally terminate claims to marital property.
However, with an absolute divorce, the circuit court grants a final decree, and the divorce is considered permanent. On completion of this type of divorce process, marital property claims are terminated, and couples can remarry.
Filing a Fault or No-Fault Divorce
In Virginia, couples getting a divorce can decide to file either a fault or no-fault divorce. When filing a fault divorce, a spouse would state in their divorce complaint that their spouse’s wrongdoing is the reason behind the divorce proceeding. But in a no-fault divorce, the divorce papers will state that the marriage’s dissolution is not due to any fault from either spouse.
It is interesting to note that the filing of any fault divorce would require the party filing for divorce to indicate the reason for the fault divorce. Under Virginia law, there are four acceptable reasons for filing a fault divorce, and these include:
- Acts of adultery, buggery, or sodomy that is committed by the other spouse,
- A conviction for a felony,
- Desertion by a spouse willfully done for a minimum period of one year, and
- Cruelty by a spouse to the other spouse with the spouse filing for divorce completely convinced that their spouse’s cruelty would result in physical harm.
The spouse filing for divorce would have to provide evidence in court, proving that there are tangible grounds for divorce.
Contested and Uncontested Divorce
The state of Virginia’s circuit court system also allows couples to decide on either an uncontested or a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, the spouses will each appoint a registered Virginia divorce lawyer to sort out a number of issues arising from the divorce, such as alimony, child custody, child support, and the sharing of marital property.
A mutual agreement is preferable in such a case, but the court may wade in to resolve these divorce issues where both parties can’t come to an amicable marital settlement agreement.
In the case of an uncontested divorce, all the divorce issues are amicably agreed upon by both parties when filing for divorce. The divorcing couple would then tender their uncontested agreement for approval by the court. If the agreement is deemed fair by the court, it issues the final divorce decree.
While uncontested divorce does not require the hiring of a divorce attorney, both parties may agree to appoint separate divorce attorneys, especially if they need legal advice and clarification on some divorce issues. One quick and inexpensive way to complete the process of uncontested divorce is by filing for divorce over the internet.
Online Divorce in Virginia
Internet divorce is becoming popular as an affordable do-it-yourself divorce option. You get to submit your application for divorce online, which is both convenient and time-saving. Many online platforms one of which is https://virginiaonlinedivorce.com/ offer to select and prepare divorce documents for you following the details of your case. In Virginia, there is also the option to submit forms online, known as e-filing.
When filing for an uncontested divorce in the state of Virginia, the plaintiff (i.e., the spouse filing for divorce) has to be a resident of the state. A valid proof of residency would be a requirement in this case.
The plaintiff would also need to have been separated from the defendant (i.e., the plaintiff’s spouse) for at least six months before filing for divorce in a situation where the couple doesn’t have minor children. However, when the couple has minor children, the plaintiff would need to have been separated from their spouse for a minimum of one year before filing.
If the couple spends a night in the same home for any reason, the period of separation must begin or start counting from when the couple was together.
To corroborate the fact that separation without minor children has been for six months or separation with minor children has been for one year, the court in Virginia would require witness testimony during the scheduled final divorce hearing.
Steps to Complete Divorce Online
There are five basic steps to take to complete a divorce online. These steps include:
- filing a Bill of Complaint,
- serving divorce papers to a spouse,
- getting a waiver of notice from the defendant,
- documenting and finalizing marital property settlement (or separation agreement), and
- scheduling a final divorce hearing.
Filing a Bill of Complaint
As the petitioner, you have to first and foremost file a Bill of Complaint. It should be filed with the circuit court located in the county that you reside. To file the Bill of Complaint, you would be required to pay a processing fee along with submitting the carefully completed form(s). You will be assigned a case number and receive file-stamped copies of all your documents from the circuit court.
Serving Divorce Papers to Spouse
It doesn’t matter if you filed for an uncontested divorce; the divorce process must include tangible proof of the filing (Bill of Complaint) as well as the receipt of divorce papers (Waiver of Notice).
Note that in a situation where your spouse resides in another state, you will have to obey the laws in operation (regarding the serving of divorce papers) in the state where your spouse resides.
In the state of Virginia, a deputy (of the sheriff) or other officials of a similar power serve the divorce papers. The petitioner pays a service fee for the time and service rendered by the deputy or other official of similar authority.
It is not compulsory that your spouse be served the divorce papers. Divorce papers can be received by anyone present in your spouse’s home, even if he or she is not at home.
However, this is on the condition that the person receiving the divorce papers is over 16 years old. Also, if the divorce papers are served at least a week (i.e., seven days) before the scheduled divorce hearing, the service would be deemed to have been completed.
Getting a Waiver of Notice
A Waiver of Notice is just a confirmation from your spouse served the divorce papers stating that he or she has no objection to the divorce process.
A Waiver of Notice is an essential step since it helps to speed up the divorce process. This document and all the other divorce documents, including the Bill of Complaint, are submitted to the circuit court before the final divorce hearing.
Marital Property Settlement Documentation and Finalization
Filing an online divorce entails that this step is completed and done as early as possible to ensure a smooth and quick divorce process. Getting around the details for property settlement can be tricky and take a while. So, this step is necessary before a divorce hearing is scheduled. In the state of Virginia, a property settlement agreement can also be referred to as a “separation agreement.”
The Virginia State Bar considers a separation agreement as a binding contract between the parties to a divorce, which details all the obligations, duties, and rights that accrue from the separation and the divorce of the parties to the contract.
This separation agreement doesn’t only address the sharing of property. It is also an allocation of debt, spousal support/alimony, child support, child custody, visitation rights, attorney’s fees, circuit court fees, and even divorce filing fees.
The Final Divorce Hearing Schedule
With the signing of the separation agreement by both parties to the divorce, the petitioner can request a date for the final divorce hearing. In truth, the arrangement of a real hearing is not really needed since most judges often permit affidavits and depositions. However, some judges will not sign off on a divorce decree without an “ore tenus” (i.e., an oral statement) during the divorce hearing.
During a final divorce hearing, the filing spouse (the plaintiff) must appear before the judge with his/her witness. The witness should be someone well known to the plaintiff.
The judge will ask the witness a series of questions. The witness needs to provide accurate answers and corroboration, especially pertaining to the spouses’ date of separation and other pertinent questions related to the divorce.
The judge will sign off on the decree of divorce only when they are fully satisfied with the documentation and witness corroboration. It is at this point that the dissolution of the marriage is finalized.