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Divorce in Virginia
Contested and Uncontested Divorces
There are really only two types of divorces that exist - contested and uncontested. Here is the difference - a Separation Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement. In a nutshell, a Separation Agreement is a document that the parties (the divorcing folks) create and sign to resolve all of the issues in a divorce. Think of it as a contract to end the marriage. It handles everything from real estate to bills to support as well as custody and visitation. I will talk later about Separation Agreements in another post.
An uncontested divorce is one where the parties have entered into an Agreement so that there is nothing really for left for the Court to decide. At the final divorce hearing, the Judge simply enters the Final Divorce Decree and incorporates the terms of the Agreement into that Order. Easy. This is the best route for most people to go because it is faster, cheaper and does not leave the decision to a stranger who does not know anything about you and your family other than the evidence at trial.
A contested divorce means that there is no Agreement. This is one where the Court has to decide everything. If you can avoid this I strongly recommend that you do. It takes control away from you and gives it to the Court. Remember, the Court does not get to hear everything because there are rules of evidence and procedure that may limit what you get to present as well as what the Court can consider. Also, the other side is trying to put their best foot forward to get the best possible results. This can result in you getting less than what you need to survive.
There can be an uncontested divorce without a written Agreement...sort of. It is still technically contested. The parties can come to Court, sign off on the Divorce Decree and leave nothing really for the Court to decide. This does not happen that often and there still may be lengthy procedural hoops that you have to go through to get there.
An uncontested divorce can become contested. Even though there is an Agreement, there are some things that are never "final" in the eyes of Virginia law. Custody, visitation and child support are the main ones. These are never permanent because the Court is always looking out for the best interests of the child. What was good in 2008 may not be good in 2018. Additionally, child support belongs to the child so even if the parties agree on Monday to a support amount they can go back to Court on Friday depending on whether certain factors have been met. Again, a topic for another post.
So this is the nutshell version of Virginia divorces. As Virginia divorce attorneys we have run the gamut of the different types of divorce. As always, this is not designed to be specific to your case as each case is different and should be treated as such. This is NOT legal advice but something to consider when you speak with a divorce lawyer or family law lawyer. It is my belief that providing as much information as possible to our clients before the come in is always the best because a better educated client means that he or she can help us help them.
Brian A. Thomasson, P.L.C.
1108 Madison Plaza, Suite 203
Chesapeake, VA 23320