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Most of the information contained in the other family law pages on this site deal with the more complex aspects of the divorce process. For couples who have already settled everything between them and who simply want to terminate their marital bonds, the depth of that other information is just too much. Many visitors to our site have asked for just a brief synopsis of the process that is followed for a “simple” no-fault and uncontested divorce.
So, in a nutshell, here is how we accomplish for our clients a no-fault, uncontested divorce however, it is important that you read the caveat below:
This is the document your attorney will draft following your initial visit to the office. It contains the essential factual allegations and legal elements which, when proven, would demonstrate to the court that you are eligible for a divorce. The elements contained in the typical “no-fault” Complaint are:
The complaint concludes with a request that the court grant the plaintiff (the person filing for the divorce) a divorce from the defendant.
About a week after you have retained the attorney, you will be asked to return to the office to review the Complaint for accuracy (to check for correct spellings of names, dates, etc.) and to sign it. Please do read the document carefully. While we rarely make such mistakes, one is possible, especially in spelling of names.
The signed Bill of Complaint is mailed (or hand carried, for faster action–talk with your attorney about this option) to the Clerk of the appropriate Circuit Court. When marked “received” by the Clerk, your case is considered “filed.”
Service of Process:
After the case is filed, the Clerk will send a copy of the Complaint, along with a cover sheet called a “Summons,” to the sheriff of the jurisdiction where your spouse resides. It is the sheriff’s job to serve the Complaint and the Summons on your spouse. The Summons advises your spouse that a divorce action has been filed and if he or she wishes to oppose it, he or she has 21 days to file a response. Otherwise, a “default” can be entered. (Actually, in Virginia, a divorce can never be granted “by default.” Evidence proving an entitlement to a divorce must always be presented. But if your spouse does not respond to the paperwork within 21 days, you can at least proceed to the deposition phase of the process without waiting any longer.)
Oftentimes, the spouse doesn’t want the sheriff coming by the house or work site, and is willing to sign a “Waiver.” In the typical waiver, your spouse waives the requirement of actual sheriff service, waives the 21 day ‘response’ period, waives the requirements of other notices that might be required (so long as there is not a request for money, property, custody or visitation which is different from the
provisions of any Separation Agreement), and states that he or she also wishes the divorce to be granted as soon as possible. Even with a waiver, you (the plaintiff) must still prove the facts alleged in the Bill of Complaint.
In an uncontested divorce case, you generally will not need to appear in court to testify. You need only to come to your attorney’s office at the pre-set time to give a deposition (testimony under oath that is give to the judge in written form). You must bring one witness with you who can verify the essential aspects of your case. Note: the witness must be able to testify to all of the matters set out in your Complaint, so make sure you read that document and begin thinking about who your witness will be a bit ahead of time. The witness should be somebody who knows you well (and has know you for a reasonably long period of time). Hopefully the witness will also know your spouse. A relative of you or your spouse is fine, and sometimes preferable, since a relative generally knows the living arrangements of the parties fairly well.
The testimony taken at the depositions is typed up and sent to the judge in this written form.
In certain jurisdictions, most notably Hampton and all of the Southside Hampton Roads cities, the deposition is taken in front of a judge. The judge listens to live testimony and that of your witness, and rules on the spot whether you have proven your divorce grounds. It’s a bit more expensive, but you really have no choice in the matter.
EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2012:
The Virginia Code provisions regarding depositions is changing. For divorces filed after July 1, 2012, (and perhaps for divorces currently pending) the evidence in a truly uncontested divorce can be presented by affidavit instead of by Depositions or live testimony. This will make the process of uncontested divorces much easier and the costs lower. We are still sorting out the implications of this new statute. We know this, however: It will save you money. Call our office for a quote for a no-fault, uncontested divorce.
Once the the testimony has been taken at the depositions, it is submitted to a judge for his or her review. The judge will read the entire file and determine for him/herself that the substantive and technical requirements of granting the divorce have been met. If they have, the judge will declare that the parties are divorced by signing a document called a Final Decree. If a separation agreement has been submitted by the parties for approval by the judge, the judge will typically make the separation agreement a part of the final decree.
The timing for the return of the final decree to our office is about 2 to 3 weeks after the taking of the deposition. (If the testimony was taken in front of the judge, there typically is no wait. We have all the paperwork for the judge’s signature.)
Once the final decree is signed by the judge, you are divorced. Your divorce will be really, really final and unappealable thirty days after the judge signs the final decree. Your “official” divorce date, however, is the actual day the judge signs the Final Decree.
That’s all there is to it.