How to Get Divorced in Virginia?

How to Get Divorced in Virginia?

In this article, I will guide you on how to smoothly move from the decision to separate, through settlement, and ending with a judge signing your Divorce Decree. This article will go through each step, making it easy for you to handle this part of your life confidently and ensure that you get everything right.

If you have done some research on how to get divorced in Virginia, you are probably more confused now than you were when you started on your research.  Virginia does not make it easy for non-divorce attorneys to understand how the process works. I am here to help!

This article is for Virginians who are ready to get divorced and are doing their best to stay out of court and mediate their divorce settlement.

If you end up in court, the actual path that your case will take is all over the place. No one can tell you exactly what your litigated divorce case will end up looking like. But, if you want to know what a streamlined divorce settlement process looks like, the way we do it at Graine Mediation, read on!

What is the most hassle-free way to get divorced in Virginia?

Mediation is by far the most hassle-free way to get divorced in Virginia. A mediator is a neutral professional who will facilitate your settlement negotiations and guide you to mutual agreement on all matters in your divorce.

If you work with a seasoned mediator, he or she will ensure that you understand the legal, tax, and financial implications of all your settlement options. He or she will also talk about the impact of various custody arrangements on children, when necessary.

Here are the steps to get divorced in Virginia with a Mediator:

1. Intake Calls 

  • Get On the Phone. To start the divorce process in Virginia, when you are considering mediation, you need to first call a mediator for what we call the “Intake Call”. The mediator might have the Intake Call with both spouses, or she might prefer individual calls. You might set up the call through the mediator’s website, through email, or just by picking up the phone.
  • Questions & Answers. During this Intake Call, the mediator will answer all of your questions about the process and the fees. You will share information about your kids, money, house, retirement, and other matters that will be part of the mediation. The mediator will also explain Virginia laws and tax statutes that are applicable to your situation.
  • Problem Solving. In most cases, the Intake Call is a great relief to people getting divorced in Virginia. By talking over what is keeping you up at night, the mediator can help you to start thinking about practical and real ways to start fresh as a single person. You are already on your way to settlement!
  • After your Intake Call you will feel that you have made progress in the divorce process. 
  • Vet Your Mediator. The Intake Call is your opportunity to see if the mediator has the knowledge and experience necessary to handle the issues in your case. Ask the mediator how he or she would handle certain situations if they came up in your case. Ask the mediator if he or she will present settlement options if you and your spouse get stuck. Ask the mediator how long it usually takes to settle a case like yours.
  • Free Intake Calls. At my firm, 15-minute Intake Calls are free. Some mediators charge for their Intake Calls. Some do not have any type of intake process.
  • Have Your Spouse Call. Once the mediator has all the information necessary to start the process, the Intake Call procedure is repeated with your spouse.

2. Mediation Sessions

During your mediation sessions, the mediator will help you settle all matters related to your divorce. This includes:

    • custody;
    • child support;
    • spousal support (alimony); and 
    • division of assets and debts. 
3-Step Process. At a firm like mine, we will move efficiently toward settlement using a three-step process:
  1. Determining what the Issues are (contested and uncontested);
  2. Sharing Information (tax, law, finance, your kids, etc)
  3. “Refereeing” – helping guide a divorcing couple toward mutual agreement
How Long Does It Take?

In my experience, most divorce cases that come to mediation can be settled in about two 3-hour sessions.

That includes both contested issues and matters where the mediator is just gathering information necessary for the Settlement Agreement. Cases with spousal support take about one extra 3-hour session, especially if there are also custody matters to work on.

Role of Mediator. Your mediator is your guide through the divorce maze, making sure you and your spouse understand the law, tax, finance, and child-related implications of the various settlement options on table. A good mediator will also provide you with new settlement options that you and your spouse might not have thought of.

The Goal = Mutual Agreement. The goal of mediation is to get you to mutual agreement on all of your divorce matters. If you are willing to consider compromise, and you are not looking to right all of the wrongs of your marriage in your divorce (never works, anyway), mediation will probably be a good fit for you.

3. The Settlement Agreement

Once you and your spouse settle all of your divorce matters, you will need the terms written up in a Settlement Agreement.

If your mediator is an attorney, he or she can write up your Settlement Agreement. It is usually better to have the person who helped you through settlement also be the person who drafts the Settlement Agreement. That way you are guaranteed neutrality and, also, that nothing will be lost in translation.

Once you sign your Settlement Agreement, it is a contract enforceable in a court of law. Once you both sign your Settlement Agreement, you and your spouse must operate according to the terms of that document … or end up in Court on an enforcement action. You are bound by the terms at signing, which is BEFORE you get divorced.

4. The Actual Divorce – Courthouse Paperwork

Do I need to file for Legal Separation? No. In Virginia, we do not have “legal separation”, per se. Instead, you are encouraged to get your case settled as soon as possible and, as part of your Settlement Agreement, the date that you and your spouse agree that you began “living separate and apart” will be clearly listed in that document.  That is “date of separation” (albeit, not your “date of legal separation”).

When do I file my Settlement Agreement with the Court? Once you have met the requisite period of time living separate and apart (12 months with minor children, 6 months without), either you or your spouse will deliver your signed Settlement Agreement to the divorce attorney who will be drafting your Final Order of Divorce (aka Divorce Decree). Your Settlement Agreement will then be filed with the rest of your required divorce documents.

Why can’t my mediator file my divorce paperwork? Mediators must be neutral at all times…but, a divorce is, in actuality, a lawsuit. Thus, a mediator cannot sue her own client for divorce. At my firm, I have a list of attorneys who will do the preparation and court filing of my clients’ divorce paperwork for a low flat fee. This has worked out well for my clients over the years.

Once the paperwork is filed, how long will it take for my divorce to be finalized? You can expect your divorce to be fully processed at the courthouse within 2-6 weeks after filing. 

Watch my Video on the topic

​Still confused about getting divorced in Virginia?

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