When couples get married, they hope to last together forever. In reality, however, this is not always the case. Couples realize that they made the wrong choice, or their priorities change and decide to divorce. In the modern world, divorce is not a tragedy but just another stage in life that requires special documents. So in Virginia, couples are invited to issue a marital settlement agreement (also called a separation agreement).
Couples use this agreement to document their agreements regarding the division of property, other assets, alimony, custody of children, debts, and any other general arrangement such as spousal support or maintenance.
The phrase separation agreement suggests that this is a divorce agreement, but in reality, it is only an appendix showing the couple’s arrangement on the division of property and responsibilities.
In the absence of this agreement, the court decides about all these points following state law.
The document must be drawn up correctly from the legal side and signed by the couple in the presence of a notary public agent. Ideally, give the document to an independent legal adviser for review before signing.
The agreement should be clear to both spouses, should not infringe on anyone’s rights, and should be signed voluntarily without coercion.
Divorcing couples who remain friends can agree on the division of property and custody of the children independently. Unfortunately, not everyone succeeds in appeasing feelings and anger, and it is not always possible to agree on the proposed conditions. In this case, the lawyers take over the case and help draw up the agreement. If the lawyers cannot reconcile the couple and bring them to an agreement, the court takes over.
If you decide to issue a Virginia marital settlement agreement, you can use our form-building software for convenience.
The laws governing divorce procedures are found in Title 20 (Domestic Relations), Chapter 6 (Divorce, Affirmation, and Annulment) of the Code of Virginia. Family law can sometimes be confusing, so if you see any difficulties, contact an experienced lawyer who understands the law thoroughly.
There are several legal reasons for divorce in Virginia, which are listed in § 20-91 of Chapter 6:
Virginia laws relating to this clause are specified in § 20-107.3.
In Virginia, if you do not have an agreement regarding the division of property, the court will not split everything in half—it is guided by fair distribution.
Factors that the court will take into account to reach a fair decision include:
According to § 20-107.2, the court can decree as to custody and visitation of children if you have not agreed on children’s custody. The court can make both—a decision on joint custody or sole custody by one of the spouses.
Section 20-108.2 sets out the principle by which the court can order the amount of child support. But since the court in Virginia is guided by fair decisions, some factors are taken into account, such as:
It is essentially the same divorce, but without its legal recognition as such. Legally separated spouses receive all rights as in a divorce, but they are not divorced according to the law.
Some people want to choose this option for religious reasons or to avoid losing benefits. But in the state of Virginia, there is no legal separation.
Instead, spouses can divorce in two ways:
If you are confident in your decision and are serious about divorce, you can follow the detailed guideline below.
1. Conclude a settlement agreement
If you plan to apply for an uncontested, no-fault divorce, have no children, and have signed a settlement agreement, you need to live separately for six months. If there are children or no agreement, the period of compulsory separation is increased to at least one year.
Signing a settlement agreement will represent all of the couple’s agreements and simplify the divorce process.
2. File a complaint
Next, one of the spouses must file a complaint about divorce in court. It should contain the following points:
Once written, the complaint must be filed with the Circuit Court. It also requires a Cover Sheet for Filing Civil Actions and a registration fee. Sometimes, upon submission, it is necessary to submit the State Vital Statistics VS-4 form. In any case, you will need it either now or later, so it is best to prepare right away.
3. Inform the defendant
Since the plaintiff is filing a complaint against the defendant, their information is required. They can inform the defendant in several ways:
The defendant can also refuse the service of informing them. Usually, this happens in an uncontested divorce.
4. Get a response from the defendant
The defendant either signs the waiver or challenges it. In any case, they should respond within 21 days. If they do not, the case continues without consideration of their answer.
5. Make a final order of divorce
This order reflects the final information from the complaint and the settlement agreement.
6. Learn the Divorce Resolution Procedure
There are three options for resolving divorce cases:
7. Consideration of divorce forms
A judge reviews all submitted forms and agreements. If no additional questions are identified, the judge signs the Final Order for Divorce.
8. Change the name
Either spouse can request to restore their name to the way it was before marriage. It is necessary to make such a request in the complaint. Sometimes it is required to write an additional order in this regard. Most often, women resort to this to restore their maiden name.