Things to Do before You File for Divorce in Virginia
Divorce can be complex, so it’s important to prepare before filing. You should understand your finances, collect any essential documents, and make sure you meet Virginia’s residency requirements for divorce. Consider what your immediate needs will be during the divorce process and after it’s finished, as your life is likely to change significantly.
How to prepare for filing for divorce in Virginia
If you’ve considered divorce and decided it’s the best option for you, it pays to prepare before filing. Rushing could unnecessarily complicate the process and make your divorce more expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally difficult than it needs to be.
Take time to research the process. Understand how a divorce works, what will happen during and after the divorce process, and all your different options for pursuing a divorce. We have many articles on our site that can help you learn more about the many different aspects of divorce.
Things to consider as you file for divorce in Virginia
A divorce will significantly change your finances. Your marital assets will be split in the divorce, and depending on the specifics of your divorce case, you may need to start paying child support. It is critical to consider your finances before a divorce and develop a feasible strategy for how you will continue to support yourself (and any dependents) after the divorce goes through.
You may need to consider downgrading your lifestyle. You may need to change where you live, especially if your ex will gain possession of the home. Establish your financial needs, and take steps to meet them, such as cutting expenses where you can or taking on other means of employment.
If you are going to file for divorce in Virginia, make sure you meet the residency requirements. In Virginia, one party involved in the divorce needs to have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. They must also be currently living in the state at the date the divorce complaint is filed. If you have children together, that requirement goes up to one year.
During the divorce process, you’re going to have to prove important things about your life, especially regarding the assets you hold. You should have documentation proving your income, average expenses, and the assets you and the other party have as part of the marriage.
If you have any separate property – the property that is legally considered solely yours even during the marriage and thus exempt from being taken during a divorce – you will also want the documents that prove such, such as a prenuptial agreement.
Your immediate needs
A divorce is going to change your life. It may be essential for your happiness and even your safety, but it is also a highly disruptive event. Make a list of anything you will need after you file for divorce, both before and after it is finalized. For example, you should know where you might stay, how you will cover your living costs, and how you will make sure any dependents who rely on you continue to get support.
In cases where you may be divorcing to escape abuse, consider how you can stay safe during the divorce process and how you will keep anyone else currently living with your ex safe. In some cases, this may mean collecting evidence of the abuse and reporting it to the proper authorities. If you’re in an abusive situation, consider contacting a help group like the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get advice and help escaping that situation safely.
Crafting a divorce strategy
Once you think you’re ready to file for divorce, it’s time to craft a divorce strategy. One of the most important considerations is what type of divorce you expect to have.
For example, do you expect the divorce to be contested? Can you potentially reach an agreement with your ex and get an uncontested divorce, where both parties largely agree on how assets should be divided and how custody will work? If the latter is appropriate, you’ll both sign a formal agreement about those items once you reach mutually beneficial terms.
On a related note, there are two types of divorce. An at-fault divorce is when one party is considered to have acted in such a way as to warrant the divorce, such as committing adultery or acting abusively. A no-fault divorce is when neither party formally accepts blame for the divorce. They simply mutually agree that the marriage is no longer viable.
Opting for mediation in Virginia
It is usually best in terms of cost and time to avoid going to court. Coming to a formal separation agreement as part of an uncontested divorce is easiest, and this can often be accomplished outside of court via mediation.
In mediation, a neutral third party helps the two divorcing parties come to an agreement about their divorce settlement. Note that the mediator cannot force an agreement. Instead, they help the two parties find common ground where they can agree.
In most cases, mediation can amicably help both parties through the divorce process, saving a lot of stress and heartache in the process. But in some cases, divorce will only happen through a legal battle. For example, if one party is hostile and unwilling to give on certain points, it’s likely you’ll end up in court.
If you are unable to reach a compromise in mediation, you can proceed to litigation at that point. But it’s almost always worth the effort to start with mediation in hopes that you can finalize your divorce agreement this way.
ReferencesDivorce. Virginia Judicial System Court Self-Help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline. National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Divorce in Virginia. Virginia State Bar.
Virginia Do-it-Yourself Divorce Instructions. Virginia Poverty Law Center.