When you are planning to file for divorce in Northern Virginia, it is important to understand the differences between a contested and an uncontested divorce, and what the differences will mean for your own divorce process. The following information can help you to understand the distinctions before you get in touch with a Virginia divorce lawyer.
Fault or “No Fault” is Not the Same as Contested or Uncontested
The first thing to know is that, under Virginia law (Code of Va. § 20-91), the ground for a “divorce from bond of matrimony” include fault-based grounds and what is, in effect, a “no fault” option for getting divorced. The grounds for divorce in Virginia include for adultery, conviction of a felony, cruelty, abandonment, as well as others. In addition to those fault-based grounds for divorce, if spouses have lived separate and apart without cohabitation (and without interruption of living separate and apart) for at least one year, they can be eligible for a divorce without alleging fault. If they do not have children and have a valid separation agreement, a divorce may be possible after six months of continuously living separate and apart.
Eligibility for a divorce based on the fault-based grounds, or the “no fault” option, outlined in the Code of Virginia is distinct from the issue of whether a divorce is contested or uncontested. While the grounds for divorce must be met in order for the parties to move forward with a divorce case, whether the divorce is contested or uncontested will determine whether the court has to resolve any disputes between the parties before the divorce can be finalized. Accordingly, whether a divorce is contested or uncontested can also affect the length of the divorce proceeding, but all of this will occur once the parties have met the requirements for divorce in Virginia.
How Are Uncontested Divorces Distinct from Contested Divorces?
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses have reached an agreement about every issue concerning their divorce, including the division of marital property, spousal support (Code of Va. § 20-107.1), Child custody (Code of Va. § 20-124.3), and any other areas related to the divorce process in which a dispute could arise. To be clear, the parties must agree to all terms. If they agree on nearly all issues but are in disagreement over only a single issue, then the divorce becomes contested.
With an uncontested divorce, the parties do not need to have a judge resolve any disputes. Accordingly, they can often arrange for only a single court appearance with their attorneys, and the divorce process can move to the stage of being finalized relatively quickly. However, when a divorce is uncontested, the parties typically will need to appear before the court a number of times (the number of hearings will often depend upon how many issues are in dispute).
Can I Move from a Contested to an Uncontested Divorce?
If you are anticipating a contested divorce, is there any way to move toward an uncontested divorce? In short, the answer is yes. Some parties are able to negotiate with assistance from their divorce lawyers and ultimately are able to reach an agreement on any issues that remain in dispute. For other couples, choosing family mediation can also give the parties an opportunity to communicate about the dispute and to reach a compromise that is acceptable to both of them. Yet if the parties cannot agree, then a judge will need to make the decision in court.
Seek Advice from a Manassas Divorce Lawyer
If you have questions about contested or uncontested divorce, or if you need representation in your divorce case, one of our experienced Manassas divorce attorneys can help. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our firm. Contact Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C. today for assistance.