Getting an Uncontested Divorce in Virginia
In Virginia, married couples can obtain an “uncontested divorce” if they meet all of the prerequisites and follow the correct procedures. As a streamlined process that minimizes the time and expense of a divorce, an uncontested divorce is highly appealing. However, its very name can be a little misleading, and qualifying for an uncontested divorce requires strict compliance with the law. Here are some issues that can get in the way.
Uncontested Doesn’t Mean Indifferent
In order to qualify for an uncontested divorce, the married couple has to reach an agreement on all the issues relating to the marriage, including division of assets and debts, custody and support. The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. Unfortunately, this means that if you have a spouse that has disappeared or refuses to engage, and you are unable to reach an agreement, then you cannot use this streamlined process to get a divorce.
Only Certain Grounds for Divorce Will Apply
In addition to requiring a minimum of cooperation, the only grounds for an uncontested divorce is to be separated for the proper period of time. The amount of time that the parties must be separated depends on whether they have minor children. The court is very strict about this issue because otherwise, the court does not have the authority to grant the divorce. If the parties try to get divorced before they meet the requirements, the court will reject the filings, and the parties will have to spend the time and money to refile everything once the proper amount of time has passed.
Proper Forms and Procedures
Just like all other legal proceedings in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the court requires correct and complete forms. It also requires that the parties respect the formalities of service of process – making sure that the forms are delivered to the other party. Incomplete forms or improper service will cause the filings to be rejected by the court, forcing the party to repeat steps, prolonging the time and increasing the cost of the process.
It Takes Three
The most common procedure for an uncontested divorce uses affidavits (sworn, written statements) instead of a hearing to present the facts to the court. The party and his or her witness do have the option of providing this testimony in court if preferred. Regardless of the procedure, a married couple seeking a divorce needs to support their claim with a third-party witness who can attest to their separation and specific additional facts. It is important to make sure this third party is prepared and available for a hearing or is willing to sign an affidavit with all the necessary information in order to make sure the divorce is granted.
The Court has to Agree
If all of the papers are in order, with all of the proper facts included as required by the court, and all of the procedures have been followed, the court will generally grant an uncontested divorce along with incorporating the written agreement into a court order that enforces the terms of the written agreement. However, the court does have discretion, particularly if circumstances change between the initial agreement and the court’s review, to reject the agreement. The court may also reject the agreement if the parties did not address all issues. For example, spousal support is one issue that must be addressed in a divorce. If the parties agree that they will not pay spousal support to each other, but they do not mention that anywhere in writing, when the court reviews the filings to determine whether or not to grant the divorce, it will be rejected because it will appear to the court that spousal support is an unresolved issue.
An uncontested divorce can be a simple, inexpensive way to terminate a marriage in Virginia. However, in order to make sure that you are following the proper steps, consider consulting with a family law attorney to review the terms of the written agreement and the documents before filing them. If you are considering filing a petition for an uncontested divorce in Virginia, contact Reese Law for a consultation.
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