Divorce Lawyer in Manassas, VA
Divorce can be a very trying experience. Whether you have been married for a short time or for many years, separating two lives that have blended into one can be extremely difficult. There are a lot of things to consider during a divorce which can be very difficult to do when the emotion of divorce can limit your view. The experienced Virginia divorce attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead can help you navigate the troubled waters of divorce offering you a sense of security in knowing that your rights are protected.
Fault and No-Fault Divorces in Virginia
Virginia allows divorcing couples to file for either an at-fault or no-fault divorce if they meet the criteria. Obtaining a fault divorce may have financial advantages when it comes to dividing assets or receiving spousal support. The person filing for an at-fault divorce in Virginia must be able to prove that his or her spouse is guilty of one of the following:
- Engaging in sexual acts outside of the marriage
- Abandonment or willful desertion
- Has inflicted bodily harm or the filing party has a reasonable fear this might happen
- Served time in prison or been charged with a felony conviction that carries a sentence of at least one year
Some defenses exist to these possible causes of fault in a Virginia divorce. For example, you cannot continue to voluntarily live with your spouse after learning of a felony conviction or adultery and then file for at-fault divorce. It’s also important to keep in mind that at-fault divorces can be more complex and more difficult to resolve, which means you should expect to spend more time and money than you would for a no-fault divorce. If you are awarded an at-fault divorce for desertion or cruelty, you must live apart from your spouse for a minimum of one year. This requirement doesn’t apply in cases of adultery.
If you wish to file for a no-fault divorce and you have minor children together, you must live in separate residences for a minimum of one year. Any period of living together will re-start the clock to meet filing requirements. The minimum separation period for couples without minor children is six months.
Contested and Non-Contested Divorce in Virginia
A divorce is non-contested if you and your spouse can agree on the terms for child support, child custody, visitation, and division of assets, debts, and property in advance. Although you can file without an attorney in this case, we don’t recommend this at Olmstead & Olmstead. Judges expect all parties representing themselves pro se to comply with the same rules applicable to an attorney. Since family law matters can be complex, you could find yourself agreeing to something that you don’t truly understand. Our experienced Virginia divorce attorneys will ensure that you understand your rights before signing any legally binding documents.
Non-contested divorces sometimes become contested divorces and vice versa. These are complex legal battles involving custody of children and financial matters. When you simply can’t agree on the terms of the divorce, your case will end up before a family court judge who will decide on the matters in dispute. Our knowledgeable Virginia divorce attorneys represent your best interests and those of your minor children in court.
How to File for Divorce in Virginia
If you are the initiating party, you need to file a document called a complaint with a Virginia Circuit Court. This is generally the court located in the county or city where you live. You will need to pay the filing fee as well. You should include the following information in your complaint:
- The date and location of your legal marriage
- The full name of each spouse and where he or she currently lives
- The military status of each spouse
- Proof that you meet Virginia’s residency requirement
- Reason(s) you are filing for divorce
- Proof that you have satisfied the separation period
- Names, ages, and current living arrangements of minor children
The complaint also includes a summons, which is a legal notice of the intended divorce. It is your responsibility to serve these papers on your spouse and receive verification that he or she received them. They may be delivered by the local sheriff, or a third-party process server.
The person receiving the complaint and summons must respond within 21 days. To respond to a divorce complaint and summons, the receiving party should address each allegation separately. They are typically lettered or numbered, and the defendant should make separate lists for those he or she agrees and disagrees with. For any disputed items, the responding party needs to submit proof of the denial. Once the defendant has finished responding to the complaint, he or she needs to file it with the issuing court in person.
As you can see, filing for divorce can be a complicated process that needs to be effectively managed early and often. It is important to work with an experienced Virginia divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected and that the divorce process can proceed as smoothly as possible.
Key Factors to Discuss with Your Divorce Attorney
When you consult your lawyer, you should make sure that you carry all documents that impact or substantiate your case. Bring titles, deeds, premarital and post-marital agreements, trusts, wills, bank statements, powers of attorneys, financial records (including those for pensions, stocks, CDs, and retirement funds), loan documents, mortgage statements, utility bills, insurance policies (health, home, and vehicle), separation agreements, and credit card statements.
The most contested issue you will likely face during your divorce is child custody. On the basis of the child’s best interests, either legal or physical custody may be awarded.
Division of Property
The rule of equitable distribution applies in Virginia. The divorce laws of the state necessitate courts to follow the equitable distribution model when dividing marital assets. Throughout the divorce process, couples have opportunities to agree between themselves on what comprises a fair division. If the divorcing spouses cannot resolve all of their property matters on their own, then a judge will decide for them after a trial or hearing on the matter.
Upon divorcing, parents are legally obligated to provide financial support for their children until the children’s emancipation. While parents are obligated to pay child support to the “other parent” on the child’s behalf, the right to receive support belongs to the child and the custodial parent.
One of the fastest changing and most contentious areas of law is alimony. In Virginia, courts may consider the duration of the marriage, the spouses’ ages, the couple’s emotional and physical condition, their standard of living while married, each party’s education level, their earning capacity and employability, and the allocation of child-raising responsibilities when making awards.
We Represent Both Plaintiffs and Defendants in Divorce Cases
The Virginia family law attorneys at Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C. have decades of combined experience representing people on both sides of the divorce equation. Whether you wish to file for divorce or have received a formal complaint and summons from your spouse, we are here to assist you through the process. This includes representing your interests in family law court in a contested divorce situation.
Our law firm provides an initial consultation to anyone who is considering divorce or has been sued for divorce. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity so you can move past this difficult time in your life as quickly as possible. To schedule your consultation, call us today at (703) 361-1555 or send us a message through our website.