How to Divorce in Virginia without Lawyers
You may be wondering if you could complete your divorce without hiring a divorce lawyer in the state of Virginia. DIY divorce may indeed be possible. Let’s look at some practical pointers for doing this legal process yourself.
Uncontested divorce requires no lawyers in Virginia
An uncontested divorce case is one where both members of a couple agree on all the important break-up issues: how child custody will work, whether spousal support will be paid, and how debts and property will be split.
The key advantage of an uncontested divorce is that it can be finalized without a lawyer. This makes it less expensive and less adversarial.
A contested divorce is quite the opposite. When a married couple can’t agree on their division of assets, how to split time with the kids, or anything else, they need a judge to step in. Contested divorces often require the services of a lawyer. The entire process is often long, expensive, and emotionally draining.
Basic steps of uncontested divorce in Virginia
Step 1: Filing and serving
The first step in the divorce process is filing your initial divorce form, a divorce petition. You can do this with the clerk of the circuit court in your Virginia county.
The petition spells out your grounds for divorce and how you’d like the marital estate and other issues (like child custody) to work.
The details on a petition generally include:
- Personal information: The full names, addresses, and contact details of both people, as well as your marriage date and location.
- Children's information: If you have minor children, you'll need to provide their names, birth dates, and current living arrangements.
- Grounds for divorce: You need to clearly state the reason for divorce as per Virginia's laws.
- Property and financial information: List all shared and individual assets. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property. You also need to provide information on shared and individual debts.
- Custody and support: If applicable, specify the preferred arrangements for child custody, visitation, and child support.
- Spousal support: If you are seeking spousal support, this needs to be outlined in the petition as well.
It's important that the other spouse be served with the divorce papers promptly after filing. This can be done via a private process server, the local sheriff's office, or certified mail.
Step 2: Negotiation with spouse
Once your spouse has been served, the negotiation phase begins. This is when the two of you discuss and agree upon the terms of your divorce settlement agreement.
Matters to consider include the ones we’ve already mentioned: property division, spousal support, child custody, visitation rights, and child support. In an uncontested divorce, it's crucial that both parties communicate clearly and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
If necessary, you may wish to involve a neutral third party, such as a mediator, to facilitate these discussions.
Step 3: Finalizing the uncontested divorce
After reaching an agreement, you'll need to submit your marital settlement agreement to the court. The judge will review your agreement and, if approved, will issue a Final Decree of Divorce, legally ending your marriage.
Joint simplified divorce in Virginia
In Virginia, a Joint Simplified Divorce is an expedited type of divorce available to couples who meet specific criteria. These include having no minor children, being separated for at least six months, having limited marital assets and debts, and agreeing on all divorce-related issues.
Both parties must attend a final hearing. There, the judge will review and approve the settlement agreement, then issue the Final Decree of Divorce.
This option can save time and money, but it requires complete cooperation and agreement between spouses.
FAQ about divorce in Virginia
Do I have to live in Virginia before filing for divorce?
Residency requirements are a key aspect of the divorce process in Virginia. According to state law, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for six months prior to the divorce filing. This residency requirement applies whether you're filing for a contested or uncontested divorce.
If neither spouse meets this requirement, you may need to wait until you do. Or, you might consider filing in a different jurisdiction where you meet the residency requirements.
How much does it cost to get divorced in Virginia?
The total cost of a divorce in Virginia can vary depending on the complexity of your case and whether you choose to hire an attorney. Here are some costs you may encounter:
- Filing fees: The initial filing fee for a divorce in Virginia is approximately $90. This is one of the cheapest filing fees in the U.S. However, additional fees may apply throughout the process, such as fees for serving divorce papers or filing additional motions.
- Attorney's fees: If you choose to hire an attorney, these costs will significantly increase the total cost of your divorce. Attorney's fees can range from $200 to $500 per hour, depending on the attorney's experience and the complexity of your case.
- Mediation or counseling fees: If you and your spouse choose to use a mediator or counselor to help negotiate your divorce settlement, you will need to budget for these services. Costs can vary widely but often range from $100 to $300 per hour.
Do I have to take a parenting class?
In Virginia, parents going through a divorce who have minor children are required to complete a parent education seminar. This seminar is designed to help parents understand and attend to the needs of children during and after divorce.
The class covers topics such as the legal aspects of custody and visitation, the impact of separation and divorce on children, and effective co-parenting strategies.
The seminar must be at least four hours long, and each parent must pay a registration fee. Proof of completion is required by the court before a divorce decree can be entered.
Hello Divorce understands family law in Virginia, and we offer online divorce plans, mediators who can help you with the division of property and other tough settlement agreement issues, and legal advice that’s affordable and tailored to your needs alone. Schedule a free 15-minute call to learn more.