Divorce is a significant life event, and it is natural to wonder how long the process will take. While the exact time it takes for a divorce to become final depends on a variety of factors and circumstances specific to each case, there is a general timeline that parties usually must follow in Virginia.
The law in Virginia requires divorcing parties to live separately before filing for a no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce is the dissolution of a marriage that does not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party. In no-fault cases:
- The couple must separate for 6 months if they do not have children.
- The couple must separate for 1 year if they have children.
During this separation period, both individuals must live apart (separated) with no cohabitation or reconciliation attempts.
In an at-fault divorce, besides the above, the filing party must allege one or more of the following grounds for divorce:
- Cruelty and fear of harm
- Felony conviction with prison time of 1+ years
In a no-fault divorce, the individual filing does not have to allege any grounds for divorce. However, the couple must have separated for the periods of time stated above.
Filing for divorce
After the separation period, either spouse can file for divorce. This process officially begins with filing a complaint for divorce with the court.
After filing for divorce, the spouse who filed must notify the other party by giving them divorce papers. A sheriff, a private process server or certified mail are the three ways to serve divorce papers to the other party. The court prohibits any other method.
After serving the other party, the court allows that party enough time to respond to the divorce complaint.
Negotiations and mediation
During this time, the spouses can negotiate or mediate any issues that may come up. This phase allows couples to work through problems using professionals, like a mediator or attorney, to work through matters like property division, spousal support, and child custody. How long this phase takes depends on the complexity of the issues and how contentious the divorce is.
There could be one or many court hearings, depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested (contested means that the party does not agree to the divorce). In addition, clients must take into consideration the court’s schedule and caseload, which can affect the timing of the hearings.
Final Decree of Divorce
Once the parties agree on their issues or the court decides for them, the court issues a Final Decree of Divorce. This is the legal document that officially ends the marriage. After the court makes the divorce official, the parties must comply with what is in the Decree (for example, the transfer of property from one party to another or other orders stipulated by the court.)
It is important to note that the divorce process in Virginia can be faster for uncontested cases. The divorce process takes longer when the case is contested. Cooperating with each other and having the willingness to work through issues and negotiate in good faith can also help speed up the process.