What Makes a Divorce Case "Contested" or "Uncontested"?
In order for the divorce to be considered an “uncontested divorce”, the parties must be in total agreement as to every issue in the case. If there is one single issue that the parties cannot agree on, the case is “contested” until that issue is resolved either by negotiation between the parties, or through a court’s decision. Issues that can cause a case to become contested include everything from the grounds for the divorce (i.e., adultery or cruelty) to what will happen after the divorce (i.e., who will have custody of the children, whether spousal support will be paid, who will be awarded possession of the marital home, etc.).
To obtain an “uncontested” divorce in Virginia, you must first have “grounds” for the divorce. In Virginia the most common grounds for an uncontested divorce are the “no-fault” grounds: (1) separation for a year, or (2) separation for 6 months, with a signed separation agreement AND no minor children born of the couple. “Separation” simply means living separate and apart with at least one of the parties having the intention that the marriage be ended by the separation. Most judges require the parties to be living in separate households. There is no such thing as “filing for separation” in Virginia. Once the above requirements are met, you are “legally separated” in the eyes of Virginia’s law.
I usually advise that if you’re planning on separating from your spouse, you should first obtain a “Separation Agreement”. This is a written, signed contract where the parties agree on the date of separation and the terms (i.e., support, custody, etc.). This gets everything settled in writing before the period of separation, and makes it very difficult for a party to change his/her mind down the road (A lot can happen in 6-12 months!).
If you are ready to start the divorce process, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-320-2010. We will schedule you a free phone consultation to discuss your situation.