Pursuing a divorce already has a stigma since it is a couple officially breaking up and legally severing their ties. While each state has its own process for divorce and how it is handled, the Virginia commonwealth experiences several misconceptions regularly about divorce and the process that is required. The following are some of the most common misconceptions regarding divorce in Virginia.
- “I can streamline my divorce in a few days”
- “I will lose my home if I leave”
- “I am only allowed access to the property in my name”
- “My spouse got a lawyer and served the divorce papers, so I do not need to hire a lawyer”
- “I can change the terms later if I find I am not happy with them”
- “We are going to have to go to court regardless if we agree on terms between us”
- “We have to be separated a year first before filing for divorce”
- “Getting a divorce lawyer is a waste of money”
Let’s talk about each of these misconceptions in greater detail:
1. I can streamline my divorce in a few days.
This is not false, but it is not possible for all cases. Certainly, an uncontested divorce in Virginia, where both parties have a complete agreement about the division of assets and have met the separation requirements of either six months or a full year (depending on the age of children, if any). At this time, these uncontested divorces can happy in as little as a week, but they are few and far between.
When one party files for divorce, the separation date starts once the two parties begin staying apart from each other either in different residences. At least one of the parties must continue residing in the commonwealth of Virginia for at least six months during the separation.
2. I will lose my home if I leave.
As an owner of the home, your rights are not automatically abolished to the property in a divorce if you decide to leave. One of the biggest parts of divorce comes with the home and parties concerned with losing rights to the home. Some divorces are delayed in their time frame because at least one party is against leaving the residence and delaying the separation.
If children are involved, it is an even more difficult decision to determine who is moving out and where the children will be residing during the separation. When you file for divorce in Virginia and have an attorney, you should discuss the implications that come with you choosing to leave. This home and the property associated with it will still need to be shared and split in court.
3. I am only allowed access to the property in my name.
This misconception is not true, but is believed initially by many Virginia spouses when they start the divorce process. Any property that was purchased by any party after the marriage date is considered to be the marital property of both, even if both names are not listed as legal owners. This is also the same with any debt that has been accrued during the marriage by one spouse or the other. Just like property has to be shared, so does the debt accumulated and required to repay.
4. My spouse got a lawyer and served the divorce papers, so I do not need to hire a lawyer.
This misconception can cost the unrepresented party a lot in divorce court. Although the other spouse sought legal representation first and filed for divorce, you still should have equal representation in court to ensure that you receive a fair and equal portion of the property and custody. Each lawyer is only able to represent one spouse and the other should have representation outside that firm to ensure that your personal rights are protected.
5. I can change the terms later if I find I am not happy with them.
Even without representation, changing a legal agreement that is signed by your spouse and yourself is not obligated to be changed. In most cases, it will not be changed, as it is considered final. Before you read the terms of the divorce, you need to take the time to review what this means and ask any questions that you may have.
This legally binding agreement will have consequences and life-long changes as you move forward. If children are involved in the marriage, especially minor children, then you have more than your own life to consider and the effects that will happen after. You should be aware of that before you sign the document and agree to the terms.
6. We are going to have to go to court regardless if we agree on terms between us.
While hearings and courts can be a part of some divorces, not all divorces end with a judge deciding how to properly split the property, debt, and custody that has accumulated during the marriage. Those that have legal representation can have a meeting between the two parties with their attorneys present and come together to decide how to divide up the property.
If these two parties are not able to make decisions on one of these things, then at that time it may be necessary to go to court. The idea of going to court and having legal guidance is not something to fear during the divorce process. It is important to understand that court is not required, however, and having the right legal counsel for both parties can avoid that step.
7. We have to be separated a year first before filing for divorce.
Once you and your spouse have decided to separate, you should go ahead and seek legal representation. While there is a separation period required, this does not mean that you cannot start the process of divorce in Virginia. Knowing your rights and what you should and should not do during the separation is essential and can protect you later on when you are concluding the divorce.
8. Getting a divorce lawyer is a waste of money.
This misconception is simply not true. While there are some divorces that do not get difficult between the two parties, the need to know and protect your rights to what is yours is a responsible investment. Not all residents understand the process of divorce in Virginia, and many that are going through it are experiencing it for the first time may not know what rights they have.
These misconceptions are heard across the state of Virginia when they obtain legal counsel or meet in divorce court. It is critical for your protection to have the most accurate information and know your rights when you pursue a divorce in Virginia. If you would like a consultation, reach out to the Law Office of Michael Ephraim today.