Divorces are an emotional time for all parties involved. We will provide you with legal and personal advice to move through the process with as little disruption as possible. We understand that we may be meeting you at your worst emotional state. We have had years of experience dealing with emotions and we understand them. You should know that we are concerned about your well-being and will help you any way we can.
Family and Divorce Law encompasses a variety of legal areas. We represent clients for divorce, custody, visitation, equitable distribution of property, protective orders, and, where necessary, we defend clients from criminal charges that may be lodged against a spouse, parent, or child. These areas are complex in nature and require experienced attorneys who have perspective and understanding of all the issues, both legal and emotional.
In Virginia, you can file for what is called a no-fault divorce if the parties have been living separate and apart with the intention to be separated permanently for a designated period of time. If you have minor children, that period of time is one year. If you do not have children, the time requirement is shortened to 6 months provided you have a signed Marital Agreement. If you do not have a Marital Agreement, you must live separate and apart for one year before filing for your no-fault divorce.
Virginia law also allows divorces on fault grounds. These include adultery, desertion, cruelty, placing one party in reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or a felony conviction of the spouse subsequent to marriage and that spouse being sentenced to confinement for more than one year. With fault ground divorces, you may file for divorce immediately without a prerequisite separation time, but the actual time frame for granting of the divorce depends on which fault grounds was alleged and proven.
Contested and Uncontested Divorces
It should be noted that divorces can be either contested or uncontested. Even no-fault divorces may have contested elements to it. This occurs when there are property, custody or support issues within the divorce that are unresolved and require litigation. While we encourage our clients to enter into Marital Agreements to resolve all disputes so the divorce can be uncontested, sometimes this is not always an available solution. There may be legitimate disputes between the parties that require the court to make a determination on a particular issue. There may also be disputes that are not so legitimate, but which occur when one of the parties insists on his or her position regardless of its reasonableness. Our goal is to focus the parties on reasonableness and fairness. We will not allow the other party to take advantage of our clients. We will make every attempt to persuade the other party or his/her counsel to be reasonable, but we will not recommend bending to unreasonable demands.
When the case becomes contested, the cases will take longer to resolve. It is impossible to determine how long it will take as it depends on how much fight is in the dog on the other side. Most contested cases involve the distribution of your property, financial support and/or custody. When a suit for divorce is filed and issues become contested, an initial hearing called a Pendente Lite hearing will be set. This hearing will temporarily determine the issues of support, custody and who will live in the marital home. Sometime after the divorce is filed, the parties will request discovery of information from each other in order to understand the facts and issues involved in the case. Once this is completed, the parties will be in a position either to resolve the issues or proceed further with court hearings. If the matter involves property disputes, an Equitable Distribution hearing will be set for the court to determine how to allocate the assets and debts of the parties. There are a number of factors that the court utilizes to make its determination. These include the duration of the marriage, the reasons for the dissolution, the age of the parties, the physical and mental condition of the parties, the monetary and non-monetary contributions to the well-being of the family as well as to the maintenance of the marital property, the debts and assets of the parties and several other factors. We will work with you to develop those factors that will best ensure a fair and equitable determination. You will be provided worksheets to complete to help guide you through these matters and help you focus on your evidence. If the disputed matter involves support and/or custody, a final hearing on these matters will also be held. Again, you will be given worksheets to help you prepare for these hearings and to best position your case in front of the judge.
A special word about custody disputes. We have handled these cases for over 30 years. These are by far the most emotional aspect of any divorce or any dissolution of unmarried couples and requires experienced attorneys to have the best chance of success. Custody cases can be handled either in a divorce action or separately in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Regardless, we understand that your children are your most important treasures. We are parents so we know infinitely about the connection. Experience in the various courts is crucial to understanding how and what to advise our clients. Every case is different and each one requires an understanding of best-interest factors that determine the case’s outcome. We will guide you through the procedures, but, most importantly, we will guide you through the manner in which the particular court will view the best interests of your children.