How to Get a Divorce in Virginia

The 6 Steps To Prepare Yourself For a Divorce

 

  1. Don’t wait to protect yourself! Know your rights early.

Clients often come to see me in the early stages of separation and divorce. Sometimes a client is just looking to know “what if” scenarios if one of them decides to divorce.  These clients almost always leave saying something like “wow, I never knew that – thank goodness I met with you,” or “I will definitely take the steps you recommended if we decide to separate.”  I have also had clients come to me months or even a year or more after they or their spouse made the decision to divorce.  Sometimes that delay has put them in a bad position as they have made decisions I would have cautioned them against had they met with me sooner.  If you are considering separation or divorce (or you think your spouse is), speak with an experienced attorney as soon as you can.  There are almost certainly things you can do to put yourself in a better situation when it comes time to divorce.  These may include dividing bank accounts, opening new bank accounts, collecting information and documentation on your spouse’s financial and personal situation, and a whole host of other things.

  1. Be prepared when you meet with an attorney.

There are several things you can do to maximize your first meeting with an attorney:

  • Create a list or spreadsheet of the assets and debts you know exist. Sometimes people don’t have all this information and that’s fine, but having a list of what you do know about is often very helpful.  Be sure to let your attorney know if you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, or has been keeping you in the dark about what they have;
  • Prepare a list of questions you have. The attorney you meet with should be able to answer your questions at the initial consultation, or if a question cannot be answered at that time, explain why that is;
  • Determine what your priorities are and communicate them. Also, give thought to what you would like your post-divorce life to look like.  Do you intend to relocate?  Do you see yourself as being the primarily caretaker of the children, or more of a shared parenting arrangement?  Do you want to stay in the marital residence or have it sold?  Do you expect to retire soon, or make an employment change, like starting a business?
  1. Live separately.

In most circumstances you and your spouse must live separately for one year before either of you can apply to the court for a divorce.  Separation generally means one of two things: 1) that someone moves out of a shared residence and either or both parties have the intent to pursue a divorce; or 2) the parties live separately in the same residence and either or both parties have the intent to pursue a divorce.  Moving out is a clear demarcation for separation, but living separately in the same residence can be more challenging.  If you are considering living separately under the same roof, you can see our checklist of things you should be doing (if possible) to ensure that you truly are living separately here: https://www.curranmoher.com/blog/2017/02/02/in-house-separation-virginia/

  1. Get important things out of the house.

If there are any valuables or sentimental items that you would be very upset to lose, it is generally a good idea to get them out of the house.  Store them at a trusted friend or relative’s house, or in a storage facility.  You may also want to download copies of family photos and videos onto a cloud service or external hard drive.

  1. Know that the date of separation is the date of financial separation and act accordingly.

In Virginia, the date of separation is the date of financial separation.  Everything that is earned before the date of separation is presumed to marital property.  Every debt that is incurred before the date of separation is presumed to be a marital debt.  Conversely, after the date of separation all income earned is presumed to be the separate property of the party who earned it, and all debt is presumed to be the separate debt of the party who incurred it.  What does this mean in the real world?  It means that in most cases, it will be a good idea for you to open new credit cards and bank accounts after the date of separation to keep your separate property separate, and marital property marital.  Consult with an attorney on how best to use the accounts created.

  1. Consider the process you want to use.

In Virginia besides litigating in court, there are several processes you can use to get from a separation to a completed divorce.  They are negotiation, mediation, and Collaborative Law, and information about them can be found here:  https://www.curranmoher.com/blog/2020/04/17/divorce-without-court-options-for-a-less-cumbersome-stressful-process/.  It would be a good idea to review these options and discuss with your attorney which process option you believe may best fit your situation.

When you’re considering separation and divorce, it can be a challenge just figuring out where to start!  Fortunately, at Curran Moher Weis, we have the experience and expertise to help you navigate these waters.


Love in a Time of Podcasts

Love in a time of Podcasts

By: Jason Weis, Esq.

Two incredibly popular podcasters recently weighed in on marriage and divorce with some thoughtful advice.  

First, Dennis Prager, provocative American talk show host and conservative commentator, recently published a “Fireside Chat” proposing the most important question couples should ask themselves prior to marriage is: “Do you actually enjoy each other’s company?”  He postulates that some unhappy marriages arise where couples love each other, but do not actually like each other.  “Ask yourself:  do you miss the person when you are not together?”  Whatever your political leanings or thoughts about Mr. Prager, there very well could be something to the old adage “marry your best friend.”  Love, while beautiful, can sometimes create feelings of obligation or even burden that, in turn, could create negative momentum over time.  Of course, not liking a person (or not loving a person) is not grounds for divorce in Virginia. 

In Virginia, the fault-based grounds of divorce remain: 

  1. Adultery, sodomy, buggery; 
  2. Felony conviction resulting in confinement for more than one year;
  3. Cruelty; and 
  4. Willful desertion.

 

Explorations of Virginia Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce and Virginia No-Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce can be found elsewhere on our site.

 

Second, Jordan B. Peterson , a controversial author, intellectual, and clinical psychologist, recently interviewed Warren Farrell, a best-selling author and notable advocate for both men’s and women’s rights.  In their near-three hour discussion, titled “The Four Dos and Don’ts of Divorce, Jordan offers his view that marriage is mostly about children, not adults:  if adults exercise their free choice to have children, marriage effectively binds those adults together to raise their children.  Warren then posits four “must do’s” if parents want children of divorce to do as well as children of “intact families.” 

He believes divorcing parents should: 

(1) Strive to ensure the children have an equal amount of time with each of them; 

(2) Live within about 20 minutes’ drive time of one another; 

(3) Not expose the children to any bad-mouthing or negative body language directed toward the other parent; and 

(4) Effectively manage the administrative aspects of child-rearing, possibly with the assistance of a third-party.  

Each item above roughly aligns with Virginia’s Best Interest of the Child Statute in one way or another, but, like most issues in divorce, there are always important exceptions.  Child custody and child visitation are delicate and often highly contested matters.  Explorations of Virginia Child Custody and Virginia Child Visitation can be found elsewhere in our blog.  After adultery, perhaps no other family law issue evokes a “burn the boats – do whatever it takes at whatever the cost” response from clients than contested parenting time and contested parenting behaviors.  Divorce can be a positive or negative for your children and selecting the right family law attorney may help each parent maintain a healthy relationship with his/her children following divorce.  


CMW’s Jason Weis to Serve as Expert Panelist on Adultery Webinar

On Thursday, April 19, Curran Moher Weis’ partner Jason Weis, Esq., will serve as a panelist on the webinar, “Discovering and Dealing with Adultery,” hosted by the D.C. Bar Family Law Community.

The webinar will address the emotional and legal implications couples face when infidelity is discovered. Mr. Weis will serve as the family law expert panelist – sharing his legal knowledge and expertise on adultery in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., and helping to educate fellow attorneys, counselors and investigators about how the different jurisdictions currently handle adultery in divorce and family law cases. Other panelists include a private investigator and mental health professional. The webinar will be broadcast live from 6-7:45 p.m. EDT.

Click here for more information on joining the webinar. Read more about Mr. Weis’ expertise in adultery and other family law matters here, or request a consultation with him. Keep up with the latest news from Curran Moher Weis through our blog, or follow us on Twitter.


How a Collaborative Divorce Can Save You Thousands

Over the past number of years, the family law landscape in Virginia has changed quite a bit. Before the 1990’s, there was only one true option for a couple seeking a divorce – go to court and have a judge decide the outcome. This method has obvious drawbacks: preparing for court and sitting through a trial is incredibly stressful, especially when your children are the subject of the proceedings; the process is long and arduous, often taking about one year from the date someone first files for divorce; the costs can be exorbitant. While to some this may be worthwhile and even necessary, most divorcing couples hope for exactly the opposite.



Effects of the House’s “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” on my Divorce and Divorce Agreement

Virginia alimony reform

On November 16, 2017, the House passed its “Tax Cut and Jobs Act,” setting the stage for the biggest tax reform legislation in decades. For more details on the bill, feel free to peruse the analysis performed by your news-provider-of-choice. While passage by the House does not guarantee anything as of yet (the Senate is still working on their own tax reform bill), tax reform certainly appears likely by the end of the year.


Understanding the Virginia Child Support Calculator

child support va calculator

Courts are often asked to determine the appropriate amount of child support payable between divorcing parents. Virginia Code Section 20-108.2 sets forth the “guidelines” used to calculate child support. The amount of support calculated with the guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount of child support, so it is important to have a thorough understanding of how these guidelines work.


Five Key Questions to Ask When Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in Virginia

questions to ask virginia divorce lawyer

Choosing a divorce or family law attorney can be a difficult undertaking. Depending on the complexity of the situation, it can be challenging for regular people to wade through the legal options and make the best choices for themselves. However, in general, when you’re meeting with an attorney, you should feel comfortable asking the attorney to explain unfamiliar concepts with you, and go over your possible choices.





Can Personality Changes be Grounds for Divorce?

personality changes as grounds for divorce in virginia

Researchers may have hit upon one factor explaining many Northern Virginia divorces: Personality Evolution. The longest personality study ever conducted confirms that people change so dramatically as they grow older that they often bear almost no resemblance to their younger selves.


How Current Political Tensions are Impacting Marriages

Politics have always been a hot button issue, but the current divisions in our country seem especially pronounced.  A new national poll from Wakefield Research indicates that the tense political environment, particularly differing views over President Trump’s election and platforms, is causing rifts in marriages and relationships like never before.


Acceptable Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

Acceptable Grounds For Divorce Image

There are three main players involved in your divorce: you, your spouse, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Just as Virginia has laws about getting married, it also has certain criteria for officially ending a marriage. Among other legal considerations, you cannot simply leave your spouse, gather your things, and immediately tell the court you need a divorce. You have to give the court an acceptable reason why you should be allowed to end your marriage. The reason is known as the ground for your divorce. In Virginia, the grounds of divorce are laid out in Code of Virginia; Title 20, Section 20-91.