The Divorce Process

The Divorce Process

In Virginia, the process you go through to obtain a divorce depends first on whether or not you and your spouse have any significant differences on the major issues of child custody, property division, debt division, child support, or spousal support.

The Process for an Uncontested Divorce

Courts in the Commonwealth of Virginia cannot grant a divorce without grounds. The divorce grounds on which an uncontested divorce in Virginia are based is being separated from your spouse for the requisite period. If you and your spouse have no minor children and have a signed separation agreement, a six-month period with no resumption of marital relations will provide the required grounds. If you have minor children, the required separation period for an uncontested divorce (also referred to as a "no-fault divorce") is one year.

When the issues are uncontested and the "grounds" requirement has been met — the entire process may typically be completed in 30 to 90 days from the date the divorce complaint was filed. In fact, in some jurisdictions in Virginia, you may not be required to appear in court even once.

The Process When Issues Are Contested

When differences regarding child custody, child support, property division or spousal support issues exist and initial attempts to reach a negotiated or mediated solution have failed, or in cases in which there are disputed grounds for the divorce, your case is considered "contested" by the Court and by counsel. We typically tell our clients that these contested issues get resolved in one of two ways; either you and your spouse enter into a written agreement settling all or some of these issues, or, a judge, after considering the evidence presented at trial, will resolve these issues pursuant to a written order of the Court.

In contested cases, the parties may proceed with the divorce on the basis of being separated from their spouse for the requisite period, or the parties may proceed with a "fault" based ground such as adultery; desertion; abandonment; or cruelty.

Once a contested divorce case is initiated in Virginia by the filing of a pleading called a "Complaint", your spouse will have three weeks from the date they are served with the Complaint to file an answer or other written response before the case moves into the next major phase, called "discovery". Discovery entails the gathering of information from the other side before a trial. This phase typically involves sending out or answering questions called "interrogatories", taking oral depositions, and requesting or responding to requests for the production of documents. During this stage of the divorce process, our attorneys continue their efforts to achieve out-of-court solutions but are also actively preparing for trial in the event your case does not settle.

In some jurisdictions, the litigation of issues takes place in one trial. Other jurisdictions separate disputed issues into two trials with the first of these being reserved for the resolution of child custody issues.

A trial involves the presentation of evidence and the making of arguments by the attorney for each party, and the judge's ruling after the consideration of the evidence and arguments.

Typically, contested divorces by their very nature take longer to complete then uncontested divorces.

Divorce lawyers at Wexell Milman represent clients in Fairfax County and throughout the surrounding areas of Northern Virginia. To schedule an initial consultation — reach us at 703-539-5398 or contact us online.