Divorce is never something anyone aspires to. Unfortunately, it happens all too often despite the best intentions. For residents of Virginia, the commonwealth has made it easy to obtain an uncontested divorce online. This process allows couples who have amicably agreed upon the division of property, child custody and other decisions to avoid unnecessary litigation and save on divorce costs.
In today’s increasingly digital society, the ability to get an uncontested online divorce makes sense. The process is not a difficult one, just one that requires following the prescribed steps.
Qualifications for an Uncontested Divorce Online in Virginia
First, the spouse that is filing for divorce must be a Virginia resident. That means that you should be able to prove residence in the state and county where you will submit papers for at least six months before the date of filing. Proof may entail corroboration by third-party witnesses. Although the spouse being served does not have to live in the same district, if they live out of state, you will have to follow the instructions for serving divorce papers in the state in which they reside.
Second, you must be separated from your spouse for six months before the date of filing if you have no minor children. If there are minor children involved, you must be separated for at least one year before the date of filing. If there was even one night where both spouses were in the same house, the separation period must start over from that point. The court may also require corroboration that the separation was complete by requiring witness testimony.
The Virginia Online Divorce Process
The good news is that if you are still reading, that means that you qualify for an uncontested divorce online in Virginia. There are five basic steps in completing the online divorce process:
Preparing the Bill of Complaint
In Virginia, you must first file a Bill of Complaint with the circuit court in your (the petitioner’s) county of residence. The process involves submitting the form and paying a fee. Once it is accepted into the official record, you will receive your case number from the court and file-stamped copies of your documents.
Serving Your Spouse
Even though you have both agreed to the divorce, there must be proof of both the filing and receipt of the divorce papers. Remember, if your spouse lives in another state, you must follow the laws of that state for serving documents to them. Typically, a sheriff’s deputy or similar official will serve the divorce papers in Virginia, and you must pay a service fee for their time. As long as someone in the spouse’s household over the age of 16 receives the papers at least seven days before the hearing, the service has been completed.
Obtaining a Waiver of Notice
The Waiver of Notice is the confirmation of the served spouse or defendant saying that they have no objection to proceeding with the divorce. It is a valuable step, as it speeds up the process considerably. It will be submitted to the court along with the other papers immediately prior to the final decree.
Documenting the Property Settlement
If you are planning to file an uncontested divorce online, it is advisable to complete this step early if you plan for a quick and smooth process. The reason for this advice is that it can take a while to work through the details, and it is the last step before scheduling the divorce hearing. In Virginia, the property settlement agreement is also called a separation agreement.
The Virginia State Bar lists the purpose of the property settlement agreement as a contract between the parties detailing the “rights, duties, and obligations that arise out of their separation and divorce.” It should include not only the division of property and debt but child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support and attorney’s fees, or in this case, court and filing fees.
Scheduling the Final Divorce Hearing
As soon as both spouses have signed the property settlement agreement, you can schedule the final divorce hearing. Technically, a hearing isn’t required, as many judges now allow depositions and affidavits, but some judges require an “ore tenus” hearing before signing the divorce decree. In the hearing, the plaintiff must appear with a witness before a judge instead of a commissioners’ hearing. Check with your county clerks’ office to find out what is required in your home jurisdiction.
The witness you choose to appear in court with you should be someone you know well. Examples of the questions they’ll be expected to answer includes:
- How you know each other
- That you’ve known each other since the beginning of the separation
- Your address where you have lived during the separation
- The assurance that you were living in Virginia for at least six months
- To whom you were married and are now divorcing
- Verification that both parties are over the age of 18 and their military status, if applicable
- Whether the parties have children
- The separation date
- Confirmation that the parties have lived apart without interruption for the separation period, to the best of the witness’s knowledge
- Corroboration that at least one spouse intended the separation to be permanent and terminate in divorce
Once the court is satisfied that everything is in order, the decree of divorce will be signed, and your marriage will be legally terminated.
Get Legal Advice From an Experienced, Licensed Attorney
Even though the Commonwealth of Virginia makes it relatively easy to complete your uncontested divorce online, many of the forms caution the parties to consult with a divorce attorney before signing the documents. Once you’ve agreed in writing, you have signed away your rights.
While everything may be in complete agreement with the wishes of both parties, having an experienced Virginia divorce lawyer review the forms before signing can make the online divorce process go much faster and smoother while preventing costly mistakes down the line. Michael Ephraim has specialized in uncontested divorce for over 25 years. Contact his office today for more information.