An uncontested or “no fault” divorce is the best option if you and your spouse have decided that your marriage is no longer working. This form of divorce means neither party is blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. With about 50% of all marriages in America ending in divorce, it is not surprising that many choose this simple, fast divorce.
The length of time it takes for an uncontested divorce to run varies, but this is directly related to the level of complexity of issues raised by both parties and how readily each can come to an agreement. Couples who set aside disagreements can do this quickly in Virginia, which even provides an option to avoid appearing in court. This guide will give you some useful advice about what to expect during an uncontested divorce hearing to help you more effectively receive the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Reaching an Agreement
An uncontested divorce in Virginia essentially means that both parties will agree on key issues such as the division of marital assets and liabilities (real estate, stocks, bonds, debts, mortgages), child custody arrangements and payment of child support, tax obligations, and alimony. The more areas of common ground and agreement between the couple, the more seamless the process can be.
In this respect, drafting an equitable marital settlement agreement is one of the most important factors determining a successfully completed uncontested divorce hearing. When both parties come to the negotiating table with a sense of fair play and are willing to cooperate, the likelihood of a collaborative divorce is increased.
Who Can Apply for An Uncontested Divorce
Obtaining an uncontested divorce in Virginia is a much simpler option than the alternative where a judge makes a decision about the division of marital assets and child custody arrangements. Courts want to be sure that both parties genuinely intend to apply for an uncontested divorce and so have introduced three simple requirements that couples must satisfy before the proceeding.
- Each spouse must agree to sign the divorce papers.
- The couple must demonstrate they have been living separately for at least six months (if there are no children) and up to one year (if there are minor children of the marriage).
- One of the parties must have lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the previous six months.
Once each party can show their application for an uncontested divorce meets these requirements, they can proceed to the next steps.
How Long Will It Take to Finalize An Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce hearing can be completed within two to five weeks. The key to this is having both parties agree to an ironclad marital settlement agreement, which specifies how items and possessions will be separated when the divorce is finalized. The application for a fast divorce can even be done mostly online.
Once you get to your court hearing, the proceedings can be completed in as little as 20 minutes and at the conclusion of these, the Judge will sign the written Divorce Decree which is also called the Divorce Order or “Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment of Absolute Divorce.” There is also an option for the couple to sign an affidavit that allows them to avoid a hearing entirely.
The first step in an uncontested divorce hearing is to make an application online with your trusted Virginia divorce lawyer who will brief you on all the paperwork and processes involved. The next step is to have prepared a detailed marital settlement agreement where each party agrees on the following key elements:
- Child Support and Custody Arrangements
This will include details around who the children will live with, visitation rights and the amount of child support to be paid, if applicable.
- Alimony or “Spousal Support”
If one party is completely financially dependent on the other party and is unable to support themselves post-divorce, then alimony may be required.
- Division of Property and Assets
This will include marital property, separate property (pre-marriage), and hybrid property (may include inheritances). At the very least, this will include the marital home and any real estate interests, money held in joint bank accounts, shareholdings, or financial investments.
- Share of Debts
This would include the amount owed on the family home and how to equitably agree to finalize these.
Once the settlement agreement has been agreed upon by both parties, they sign the document in the presence of their attorneys. The next step is asking a Judge to formally grant the divorce, either in a court hearing or with a signed affidavit. Consulting a skilled and compassionate divorce attorney can make this entire process easier for all parties. You need to feel confident that your legal professional is protecting you and your family’s financial interests during this challenging time as well as making sure that all the appropriate documentation has been submitted.
What Paperwork Is Required?
There are a number of forms that must be completed by both parties to ensure that the uncontested divorce can successfully proceed to the Judge. These include:
1. A Bill of Complaint
This document will provide a snapshot of your marital life and contain important background information about you and your spouse, number of children, information about military service, and the financial outcomes you are seeking, including child support, alimony, and property division.
2. A Waiver of Notice
This is where your spouse indicates their agreement to the uncontested divorce. Having this form completed will significantly speed up the entire process.
3. A Completed Marital Settlement Agreement
This document describes the financial breakdown of all items and possessions from the marriage and how they will be divided after the divorce is finalized.
4. A Hearing Request Form or Request to Have Divorce Heard by Affidavit
This request, if agreed to, means that neither you or your spouse will need to appear in court at the final hearing.
5. Parenting Plan (if applicable)
A good parenting plan will describe arrangements for changeover between households for any children of the marriage along with agreed visitation rights. A really successful one would have some degree of flexibility built into it.
6. Proof You Attended a Parent Education Seminar (if applicable)
The Parent Education Seminar runs for four hours and costs around $50. In Virginia, both parties must prove they have attended within 12 months before their court appearance or the court can find them in contempt. It is very important that you attend this Seminar, not just for compliance purposes, but also to determine the most peaceful options for conflict resolution — including mediation to determine custody issues.
7. Child Support Order (if applicable)
In Virginia, child support payments are based on the combined incomes of both parents and the state requires that each is responsible for paying a certain percentage of the whole child support amount. The custodial parent usually receives the payments as it is assumed that he or she bears all the other costs of raising the child. The child support order will be addressed to the non-custodial parent outlining payments to be made. Child support orders also change over time and you will need to make necessary adjustments if required.
You will need to manage your expectations about future changes to child-care arrangements and child support payments, including penalties for non-compliance. Divorcing couples who agree upfront on finances, custody arrangements, and other key issues will have the simplest time preparing this paperwork.
What to Expect if You Opt for a Final Uncontested Divorce Hearing
At your final uncontested divorce hearing, the Judgment of Divorce or Divorce Decree will be signed by the judge who has also been provided with a copy of the marital settlement agreement. The judge will not read the Agreement and will not be determining whether the enclosed terms are fair. They are only concerned that both parties have agreed to the fundamental terms of the document and are voluntarily entering into the agreement. The onus is on you to make sure you are comfortable with all the elements of the marital settlement agreement and agree to abide by them.
Virginia couples pursuing divorce also have the attractive option of avoiding a hearing altogether by signing an affidavit that is presented to the judge by an attorney. Consider speaking with an expert about a speedy divorce that will keep you out of court entirely.
Get an Uncontested Divorce in Virginia Without a Court Appearance
The key benefit of choosing a fast and easy uncontested divorce is having this streamlined process where you can file online from anywhere in Virginia, meet with your divorce lawyers, and file by Affidavit, effectively avoiding a court appearance by either party. The Law Office of Michael Ephraim has been helping couples in the Commonwealth of Virginia finalize uncontested divorces for over 25 years and will work with you to ensure that you get the best possible outcome. You can contact our offices today to discuss your options.