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Though some parts of the divorce process in Virginia can be pretty straightforward, there are many aspects of it that can be rather complicated. This is especially true if it is a contested divorce, meaning that you and your spouse do not agree on the specifics, such as the child custody arrangement. To get the best outcome, you need to understand all of the details, and some of the most important ones are outlined below.
First and foremost, you have options when determining the grounds for the divorce. If you would like, you can claim that the split is the fault of your partner. This is sometimes done when there have been criminal charges, for instance, or in cases of infidelity. You can also file a no-fault divorce, which simply means that there is no one to blame for the split. This may indicate that you should file on a basis of irreconcilable differences. Not all states allow you to choose between the two, but Virginia does.
Furthermore, you can use your own separation as grounds for a divorce. All states have their own limits on how long the separation must be. In Virginia, it is a period of 12 months.
If you have just moved to Virginia, residency becomes very important. You cannot file for a divorce within the state until one or both of you have lived there for 180 days—or six months. The critical detail here is that only one of you must be a resident for six months; if the other is not, a divorce can still be sought.
When looking at child custody, you and your spouse can come to an agreement and sign off on it if you would like. If you cannot manage to agree, that is when it must go before the judge. The decision that the judge makes is going to be geared toward whatever he or she feels would be best for the child. Your desires, and the desires of your spouse, will be considered, but the child's needs come first. The parenting goal, then, is to have both parties involved in a joint custody situation.
It may be that the judge feels that sole custody is a better option, however, and he or she has the power to rule in favor of one party or the other. For example, this is done in cases in which there has been child abuse, which may even be used as the grounds for the divorce in a fault-based separation. In a case like this, it is clear that the best interests of the child mean putting him or her with the spouse who was not abusive, even if the other parent claims to want to be involved.
There are two large monetary decisions that have to be made: property division and child support. Since Virginia is an equitable division state, the judge can decide what he or she feels is a fair division of assets. This will not always be equal, and individuals have more say in claiming what they earned or purchased, even during the marriage. In most cases, property is given to the individual who can claim it exclusively.
For child support, the process is complex, and it takes into account the amount that you earn, the amount your spouse earns, the support the child needs, the level of support the child got from both parents when you were together, the employment status of each person, and which parent will take on more costs due to the child custody situation. Every case is different, but these are the main elements. Be sure you know how the legal process works, and seek legal assistance for any questions.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified divorce lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local divorce attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.