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Divorce FAQ’s

How long do you have to have lived in Virginia to file for divorce in a Virginia court?

At least one of the parties involved must have lived in the state of Virginia for at least 6 months in order to obtain a legal divorce in the state. 

How long do you have to be separated in order to get a divorce in Virginia?

You and your spouse must live separately for one year before you can file for divorce in Virginia (6 months if you have no children and have a signed separation agreement).

What does “grounds for divorce” mean?

This is simply referring to the reason for the divorce.  There has to be a legally recognized reason for petitioning a divorce in the state of Virginia.  One of these reasons must be used to justify the divorce.  

What is the difference between a Fault and a No-Fault divorce?

The difference between a Fault divorce and a No-Fault divorce is the “grounds for divorce”.  Grounds for a No-Fault divorce include separation without cohabitation or interruption for the required period of time. Grounds for a Fault divorce can include adultery, conviction of a felony and incarceration, desertion and physical cruelty.  In a Fault divorce, one party is claiming wrong-doing by the spouse, in a No-Fault divorce both parties agree that they have separated due to differences that cannot be resolved.

What is alimony or spousal support?

“Spousal support” or “alimony” is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the loss of the other spouse’s income as a result of the divorce. The amount granted is determined by several factors including the comparative earning capacities of the parties, their contributions to the marriage, and the circumstances which contributed to the end of the marriage. 

How is child support determined?

Child support is determined based on a calculation derived from statutory guidelines, which takes into account both parties’ incomes, any work-related day care costs for the child(ren), and health insurance costs for the child(ren). These guidelines are presumptive, which means the Court may deviate from the guidelines if there are special circumstances.

Settling vs Going to Court: Which is better?

In many cases, it is best to resolve your difference through some sort of negotiated settlement. That settlement can be reached through mediation, negotiations between attorneys, or a collaborative process. When you go to court, you give up control over your life to a stranger. However, litigation is often appropriate if the other person is unreasonable or if there is an emergency.

What is Mediation and is it right for my situation?

Mediation is one method of alternative dispute resolution. A trained mediator, usually an attorney, will meet with both parties together and will facilitate a negotiated settlement. The Mediator will draft the settlement agreement. The Mediator cannot give individual legal advice, so each party usually has the agreement reviewed by an attorney before it is finalized. Mediation requires both parties to be able to self-advocate. The parties should be able to communicate, and they should have the mindset that they want to settle things relatively amicably.  Mediation is never appropriate if there is domestic violence or any issues of power and control.

How does the court decide how marital property is divided?

Virginia is an “equitable distribution” state. That means that the division of marital property and debts between divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but may not necessarily be equal.  The court considers many factors in distributing marital property including each party’s monetary and nonmonetary contributions to the marriage. Property includes real estate, investments, 401(k)s and other retirement accounts, pensions, cars, furniture, et cetera. Only marital property, meaning property acquired during the marriage, can be distributed in a divorce. Any property a spouse had before the marriage, acquired after separation, or received from a third party, is his or her separate property. This area of the law is often complicated, because some property can have both marital and separate components.

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