How to Prepare Yourself to File For Divorce

prepare for a divorce
Hands of wife, husband signing decree of divorce, dissolution, canceling marriage, legal separation documents, filing divorce papers or premarital agreement prepared by lawyer. Wedding ring.

Filing for divorce can seem overwhelming. However, you can reduce some of the pressure by understanding the process. Taking the time to prepare will help the divorce flow smoothly and minimize stressful surprises.

Understanding Divorce in Virginia

There are many questions surrounding divorce for those who are interested in beginning the process. Before pursuing a divorce request in a Virginia circuit court, familiarizing yourself with your options is essential.

Do You Qualify for Divorce in Your State?

First, you’ll have to make sure that you qualify. Every state has distinct requirements for divorce. In Virginia, at least one of the married partners must have been a resident of Virginia or a member of the Armed Forces stationed in Virginia for a minimum of six months. If you don’t meet the residency requirements, you may choose to get divorced in a different state. The other option is to wait until one of you does meet the Virginia residency requirements.

Why Are You Getting Divorced?

Whether or not you hire a divorce attorney, you’ll need to list your grounds for the request when you file for divorce. You can use one of the following options as grounds for divorce:

  • You have been living separately for one year, or you have been living separately for six months and you have a property settlement agreement and no minor children.
  • Your partner has committed sexual misconduct related to adultery, sodomy, or buggery.
  • Your soon-to-be-ex has been convicted of a felony and will be imprisoned for at least one year.
  • Your spouse has willfully deserted or abandoned you.
  • Your partner has harmed you emotionally or physically.

In Virginia, you have the option to file for a no-fault or at-fault divorce. If you file for a no-fault divorce, you must choose the first option as your grounds. If you file an at-fault divorce, you can choose one of the other options. However, you will have to prove the fault in court. Otherwise, the divorce will not be granted.

Will Your Divorce Be Contested or Uncontested?

If you expect that you and your current spouse will work together to agree on all essential matters regarding the divorce, you can push for an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, you will be required to go through a specific process, filing the proper documents and paying the associated fees. 

In a contested divorce, the parties can’t agree on issues such as custody, financial arrangements, division of property, and spousal support. Therefore, they will require a judge to make certain decisions for them before they can finalize the divorce.

If you and your partner can’t come to terms regarding divorce-related arrangements, you can hire a mediator and continue to pursue an uncontested divorce. A mediator is an experienced, neutral party that can help you prepare a settlement for an uncontested divorce.

Do This Before Filing for Divorce

Knowing that your marriage is ending can bring up intense emotions that can cloud your thinking and judgment. Getting prepared and staying organized will help the divorce run smoothly even when it feels like you’re on a personal roller coaster ride.

The First Step in Protecting Yourself

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your interests is to hire an attorney, even if you are planning on filing for an uncontested divorce. In order to maintain your personal privacy, you should have a secure email address for all documents and paperwork to be sent to. This should be set up before you officially file for divorce.

Prepare Your Finances

Familiarize yourself with your assets. You should know how to access your bank, loan, and credit card accounts as well as copies of your tax returns from previous years.

Many couples have joint accounts and credit cards. Before you file for divorce, you should open a bank account and credit card in your name alone. Doing this will help to ensure that you have access to your funds if things get tricky during the divorce.

You should also put aside money for the legal fees, which have a broad range. An uncontested divorce can cost as little as $495 plus a filing fee. Hiring a mediator increases the cost. 

Tell Your Spouse

Movies often show spouses being blindsided when they’re served with divorce documents. But the Virginia law that requires a couple to be separated for 6 to 12 months before filing for divorce makes that scenario unlikely.

In the best-case scenario, you will explain to your partner that you’d like to separate with the intention of divorcing. You’ll probably have many conversations about logistics, and you’ll be able to work out the details to include in your separation agreement as you wait the required amount of time before filing.

There are other possible scenarios. You can file for an uncontested divorce even if you can’t locate your spouse. If you think that your spouse will contest the divorce, separation arrangements, or provisions in the settlement agreement, you may want to contact an attorney first.

Consider Settlement Options

If you’re filing for an uncontested, no-fault divorce, you should have a separation agreement that is signed by both parties and notarized. This is potentially the most time-intensive aspect of a divorce.

Here are some quick tips to reduce confusion about the separation agreement:

  • Other names for the separation agreement include property settlement agreement, marital settlement agreement, and mediated separation agreement.
  • The document can be written up by anyone (including you) in any state.
  • The separation date on the agreement can be used to determine the divorce waiting period, which is 12 months if you have minor children together.
  • It should include provisions and guidelines about anything that you don’t want to dispute after the divorce is finalized.
  • You can write and file the separation agreement at any time before the divorce is filed. If the Virginia residency or separation requirements have not yet been met, the separation agreement can be still be prepared and signed in advance.

Are You Ready to File for Divorce?

To complete the divorce filing, you will need to prepare a divorce complaint form. This will designate you, the individual asking for the divorce, as the plaintiff. If you are filing for an uncontested divorce, you should also file the following:

  • A separation agreement that is signed by both parties and notarized
  • A proposed final decree of divorce

An attorney can draft these documents for you. If you and your partner agree on all terms, we can help you with a fast uncontested divorce. Our online option allows you to complete and file all necessary documents without leaving the house. You don’t need to find a notary, visit an attorney’s office or appear in court. An attorney will prepare and file your documents along with the necessary fees so that you don’t have to worry about getting it right. Going through the Virginia Divorce Center is one of the most straightforward and convenient ways to obtain an uncontested divorce.

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