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How Does a Contested Divorce in Virginia Work?

If you are considering filing for divorce in Virginia, you may have heard phrases like ‘uncontested’ and ‘contested’ divorce. An uncontested divorce means that the couple agrees on every issue related to their divorce, but this situation is fairly uncommon. The vast majority of divorces in Virginia are contested divorce cases, which means that the couple disagrees on at least one major issue, such as alimony (also known as spousal support), distribution of assets (in Virginia, called equitable distribution), child support, child custody and visitation (also called parenting time). At the law office of Kurylo Gold & Josey, our experienced divorce attorneys, working on contested cases in the Fredericksburg region and Northern Virginia, understand how stressful and confusing this process can be and are here to provide you with effective legal representation in your contested divorce case. To schedule a consultation, call or contact our office today.

Residence Requirements and Fault Grounds

The first step in the contested divorce process is checking that you meet the state’s residency requirements and file for the proper grounds. Virginia residency requirements mandate that at least one spouse has lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. When making the initial filing you must also list the grounds for the divorce, which can be no-fault or fault-based.

A no-fault grounds divorce requires that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least six months if you and your spouse have a signed agreement resolving all the issues in your divorce, or 12 months if there is no signed agreement or if there are minor children of the marriage. A fault grounds divorce would be based on either adultery, sodomy or buggery, willful desertion, abandonment, felony conviction, or cruelty. Filing for divorce under a fault ground does not require a minimum length or separation, but you must be able to prove the grounds in court to obtain a final divorce based on the fault ground.

Procedural Steps to Contested Divorce

Once the Complaint for Divorce has been filed, the following procedural steps take place. Your spouse has the opportunity to file an answer to your divorce Complaint and may file a Counterclaim or some other responsive pleading, such as a Demurrer or Motion to Dismiss. At this point, one spouse may request temporary spousal support and child custody while the contested divorce is ongoing; this is done at a Pendente Lite hearing (meaning a hearing to make an Order pending the litigation). The next step is the discovery process, which is the fact-finding step of a contested divorce. This includes depositions, requests for documents, interrogatories, requests for admissions, and subpoenas on all matters being contested in your divorce case. During discovery and at trial expert witnesses may also be called to provide advice or testimony on particular issues, such as appraisers, child psychologists, and financial consultants.

Additionally, many Courts now require parties to attempt divorce mediation or a judicial settlement conference before going to trial. These alternative dispute resolution methods take place outside of the courtroom and utilize a neutral third party (sometimes a retired judge) to try and resolve any outstanding issues in your contested divorce case. If these methods fail, any unresolved matters in your contested divorce go to trial. Once the issues are decided by the Court, your divorce is finalized by the judge.

Call or Contact Our Office

To learn more about the contested divorce process in Virginia, call or contact Kurylo Gold & Josey today in the Fredericksburg or Northern Virginia regions to schedule a consultation for your divorce case.