Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Virginia

November 4, 2022
Chris Macturk
Founding Attorney

Divorce FAQs

When thinking about divorce, there are many questions that arise creating a considerable amount of stress and anxiety. At Evolution Divorce, it's our aim to help you get all your questions answered to help eliminate as much uncertainty as we can while you consider the possibility of divorce.

We've compiled a list of frequent questions people ask when considering a divorce. Many of these answers pertain to anyone going through a divorce, but since we are located in Virginia, some of the answers pertain to our geographic location.

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

There is no legal process to establish “legal separation” in Virginia. In Virginia, you are separated if you live separately and one of the spouses has formed the intention to separate permanently. Divorce is when a Judge signs an order dissolving your marriage.

What is an annulment?

Annulment in Virginia is rare. There are certain limited circumstances where your marriage can be annulled. For example, if you were still married at the time of your second marriage, the second marriage is “void” and can be annulled. 

How do I file for divorce?

A divorce action is a lawsuit just like any other lawsuit. There is a plaintiff and a defendant. Filing for divorce requires certain papers called “pleadings” to be filed in a Circuit Court in the location where you last lived together as a married couple or where the defendant (your spouse) in the divorce case resides. While there appear to be some online forms that will guide you through the process of divorce, the process is often best and most effectively handled by an attorney due to its relative complexity. 

Virginia Divorce Laws, Divorce laws
Virginia Divorce Laws, Divorce laws

Do I need a lawyer to get divorced?

Even a simple “no-fault” divorce filing can trip up people who are trying to do it themselves. We are often asked to help those who tried doing it themselves but could not get their case to the point of getting a Judge to sign a divorce decree. You should at least consult with an attorney when deciding to file for divorce. There are more things than just the “divorce.” For example, while a divorce dissolves your marriage, a divorce action can also resolve other things like what to do with a house or custody of children. Rushing to get a “divorce” can often create more problems if you don’t deal with everything you need to before getting the divorce. Talk to an attorney first.

What is the difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce?

If a divorce is “contested,” it may mean that there is no agreement on the division of assets or support or other issues involved in the case. If a divorce is uncontested, it means that the parties are either in agreement or no one will get in the way of getting the divorce. A divorce often can’t be stopped. It can be slowed down when the parties can’t agree.

How can I get a divorce using a separation agreement?

The separation agreement can contain all the important matters in your case – from what to do with the house and retirement accounts to where the children will live. It is often the most important document. When you have a separation agreement, the Judge doesn’t have to make all the decisions. All that is left to do is ask the Judge to divorce you and with an agreement already reached, that process can be relatively straightforward, especially compared to a contested divorce.

court filing fees, divorce proceeding
court filing fees, divorce proceeding

How long does the divorce process take?

Depending on whether you have a separation agreement or not, the process can take from several weeks to over a year. It really depends on the parties’ willingness to reach an agreement. If not, then the court process normally takes several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of your matter.

How much does divorce cost?

This is difficult to determine without knowing more about the facts of your particular matter. The entire process may cost a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. The initial consultation is the best place to start considering more specific amounts or smaller ranges of amounts as every case is different. At Evolution Divorce, we believe everyone should have a clear understanding of what their costs might entail. Our pricing model is transparent so you are never caught off guard by unexpected expenses.

What is the consultation fee? $250

What does the consultation get me? In this meeting, it’s our goal to help you get all your questions answered, or help you know what questions to ask. Often people have no idea what their rights or options are and desperately want to regain some sort of control in their lives. Additionally, we'll collaborate with you on a pricing plan. Consider this meeting your first step at regaining control. Together we'll map out a plan, and we'll advise you on how you can reach our goals. 

court appearances, legal decree
court appearances, legal decree

Will I have to go to court?

Not necessarily. If you can reach an agreement, then most likely you will not have to go to court. But for any issue that the parties can’t agree upon, a Judge will need to decide and a Judge only decides issues after having a hearing.

Do I have to disclose all of my finances during divorce?

If there is a court case pending, there will likely be formal requests for information that you have to answer, some answers under oath. When parties reach an agreement outside of court, Virginia law requires that the parties have a fair and reasonable disclosure of the financial assets and income of the other side and waive any further right to disclosure beyond that provided. Collaborative cases require full disclosure of finances.

How do courts divide property in divorce?

Judges divide property after considering many different factors, including the reasons for the dissolution of the marriage and the monetary and non-monetary contributions of the parties to the well-being of the family.

child custody, minor children
child custody, minor children

What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

Physical custody is where the child primarily lives. One parent could have primary physical custody which means the child lives primarily with that parent or the parties can share physical custody and the child can spend considerable time at each parent’s residence. Legal custody deals with decision-making. If the parents share joint legal custody, they both need to be involved in decision-making for the child. If one parent has sole legal custody, then that parent can make all decisions without consulting the other parent.

Can I get my maiden name back?

As part of a divorce, the Judge can order a name change back to your maiden name. Some spouses ask if they can force the other spouse to change their name back to their maiden name. No, your spouse needs to make that decision on their own and you can’t force a name change.

How can I protect my assets?

Every situation is different, and you need to consult with an attorney for specific help in your case, but things to consider are how assets are titled – is the money in a joint account or not? – and who may have control over the assets before a Judge can make a ruling or the parties can reach an agreement.

How do I find out what assets my spouse has?

In court cases, you can use the formal “discovery” procedures the court gives you to discover assets. Some spouses have a pretty good idea of what assets exist, but often there is one spouse who doesn’t have too much information on the family’s finances. This is normal and we can brainstorm ideas on how to find information on assets if the court is not yet involved. 

What is the likelihood I can get custody of my kids?

The outcome of a custody case really depends on the facts of the specific case. However, gone are the days of one parent always getting primary custody and the other parent only having the children every other weekend. More and more shared arrangements are becoming the norm, but that doesn’t mean that is the result in every case. The Judge considers many factors in making a determination of child custody, including how the parents work together to resolve disputes and whether one parent has denied visitation to the other parent. 

What am I entitled to?

For assets that are being divided, we normally talk about the “marital share” of assets. The marital share is often divided in half, but not in all cases. Other assets that are not divided are “separate” assets. One way to get a greater share of all the assets – both marital and separate – is to ask the Judge to classify an asset as being your “separate” asset. The law does not divide separate assets, only marital assets. Whether or not a Judge classifies any assets of the parties as “separate” depends on the specific facts of your case.

What kind of alimony will I receive/be required to pay?

Spousal support, unfortunately, is the most frustrating part of divorce law because there is no clear path to the right answer that everyone can follow. For example, child support is often determined by using “guidelines'' found in the Code of Virginia – a pretty clear path. However, while there are spousal support guidelines, they are limited and not as broadly applied or reliable as the child support guidelines. Often, we look at one spouse’s finances and ability to pay and compare that to the other spouse’s need for support. There are many other factors a court must consider, including whether one spouse is fully employed and earning what he or she could earn or if there are reasons for that spouse to stay out of the workforce, for example, to care for children.

What kind of child support will I receive/be required to pay?

Virginia courts normally follow the Virginia Child Support Guidelines, which consider each parent’s income, the cost of child care, the cost of health insurance for the children, whether spousal support (alimony) is being paid, and the number of days each parent has the children. Any spousal support ordered will continue until the child reaches 18, or 19 if still in high school. Child support can continue for children over 18, but only in those cases where they are severely disabled and cannot live independently. 

Chris Macturk, Divorce attorney
Chris Macturk, Divorce attorney

Are you considering a divorce in Virginia?

Schedule a Consultation with Evolution Divorce

We know that reaching out to someone is a big first step. We are here to offer the guidance you need. We aim to make the entire process as easy and simple as possible.

Here's what it will look like at your initial consult:

  1. LISTEN: At your consultation, we will take time to listen to your situation.
  2. COLLABORATE. We'll collaborate on a plan and pricing agreement, so you always know what to expect and are never caught off guard.
  3. GUIDE. We guide you through the divorce process.

Schedule a Consultation with Evolution Divorce Today.

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