Divorce can be one of the most stressful things most couples ever go through. It is a confusing, emotional process that often leaves you unsure of how to proceed. Whether you are contemplating filing for divorce, or have just been served divorce papers, the first step is to hire a divorce lawyer.
Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer is an important step in the Virginia divorce process. You should be very thorough in your search. You will share a large part of your personal life and space with this person and their experience and knowledge will help determine the outcome of your case. We have compiled a list of things you should consider when searching for a divorce lawyer.
First, one of the easier ways to start your search for a divorce lawyer is to ask your friends and family members for recommendations. These people who know you are most likely to recommend someone that you would feel comfortable with. It is a great place to start but remember that you should get a feel for the lawyer yourself and make sure he or she is the right choice.
When you have a list of potential divorce lawyers, you should research each one. Do an online search and find out as much as you can before you go to a consultation. You can read reviews and testimonials from their previous clients.
Once you are ready, call to schedule a consultation. Pay attention to how they or their staff treat your phone call. Do you feel rushed? Did they take the time to hear you out or just quickly offer a solution?
Prepare for a Consultation
Ideally, you should have all your documents in order before your consultation. Details regarding your personal assets, finical information, debt, possible custody arrangements and any other information that might be important should be compiled before you go to the consultation.
Many attorneys request that potential clients complete intake paperwork. It is important to do so thoroughly and as completely as you can. All this information will help your divorce lawyer offer advice and plan for your next steps.
There can be no secrets here. Hiding important information about your marriage can hinder your lawyer’s ability to assess the case and offer appropriate advice. You need to be open and honest during your consultation. Sharing the key details about you or your spouse’s conduct may be unpleasant but it is critical that your lawyer has all relevant information.
Furthermore, you should feel comfortable speaking to and trusting your attorney. If you don’t feel comfortable, it may be best to seek a different lawyer. If there is any information that could potentially complicate your divorce or impact a legal issue, informing your lawyer puts them in a better position to proactively advise and represent you.
Consider the Fees
Your consultation is a great time to ask about fees. Find out what you will be expected to pay for the services you will receive. Is it a fixed price or hourly fee? Is there a minimum charge if you are billed hourly? Ask these questions and get a breakdown of what you will be charged for to help avoid any surprises.
No Sweet Talk
If a divorce lawyer makes grand promises and tells you exactly what you want to hear, beware. No attorney, no matter how great, can give you a 100% guarantee of the outcome. There are just too many variables involved. Any attorney that tries to sweet talk you should be regarded very carefully.
Asking the right questions is important. The answers will help you decide which lawyer to hire so ask questions. Ask anything you think might be relevant to your divorce. A few key questions to include during your consultation are:
- Do you specialize in family law or divorce?
- What is your strategy for my case?
- How may divorce cases have you handled?
- Can I get a breakdown of your charges?
- What is the most challenging aspect of my case?
- Do you have experience with child custody agreements?
- Who will be assisting on this case and can I meet them?
- How often will I be briefed on the proceedings?
Divorce Lawyer Near Me
If you have decided that it’s time for divorce, or your spouse has filed for divorce, you need to hire a divorce attorney. Choosing the right lawyer gives you the best chances of a positive outcome in your case. If you are searching for a skilled, experienced divorce lawyer, please contact Grenadier, Duffet, Levi, Winkler, & Rubin, P.C. and meet with us virtually or at our Reston or Alexandria, VA offices in Northern Virginia today!
Whatever the reason, if you are considering a divorce, you probably have a lot of questions. The first step is to find a family law attorney to help you through this process. There are different types of divorce and different rules for particular situations. Not to mention the changes in divorce hearings due to COVID.
Reasons for Divorce
In Virginia, there are many grounds for divorce. Some are fault grounds, others are no fault. The grounds for divorce are:
- Adultery, sodomy, or buggery. These are extremely difficult to prove, requiring clear and convincing evidence, and can’t be used as grounds for divorce if you condone the act by continuing to maintain the marital relationship with your spouse after the act is committed.
- Your spouse’s conviction of a felony and sentence to more than one year in prison.
- Physical cruelty. Generally, there is no mental cruelty in Virginia. However, in certain instances the courts do find that pervasive mental cruelty may be sufficient for a finding of cruelty. This ground requires a one year waiting period before a divorce can be finalized..
- If your spouse leaves you without a good reason, it is desertion. This requires a one year waiting period before a divorce can be finalized.
- Constructive desertion. If your spouse forces you to leave without a good reason, generally due to cruelty, it is grounds for a divorce. However, it requires a one year waiting period before a divorce can be finalized.
- Uncontested or “no fault” divorce. One year of separation is required. Separation is defined as not cohabitating as a married couple. In most instances, this means not living together. However, there are circumstances where a couple can be considered separated but still under the same roof.
- Divorce from bed and board. This procedure means that the two parties remain legally married, but all other rights including child support and custody as well as equitable distribution of property are settled. This is typically filed when one party wants to initiate divorce proceedings, but the parties have not yet been separated for one year..
Who Can File for Divorce?
You or your spouse must be a resident and domiciliary of Virginia for at least six months before you can file for divorce. Divorce is filed in the Circuit Court, usually in the county or city that you have lived in with your spouse, or where the defendant (the person against whom the divorce is filed) currently lives.[Related: How Domestic Violence Affects Custody]
Your spouse cannot prevent you from getting a divorce in Virginia. However, they can delay the divorce by disputing the grounds for divorce, property issues, custody, child support, alimony, or marital debts. If this occurs, you may need to go before a Circuit Court judge.
If there are no disputes, your divorce can be finalized without going to court. But how long does divorce take? If the parties have an executed agreement, finalizing the divorce can take several weeks from the time it is filed until it is granted. However, contested divorces can last much longer, sometimes several years.
There are generally five steps to a divorce. First, the divorce papers are filed with the court. These papers are called a Complaint and must be drafted in correct legal format to be accepted. Then the court issues a Summons.
Second, the Complaint and Summons are served. This means they are legally delivered to the Defendant. Rules of service are complicated. Just giving your spouse a copy of the complaint and summons is not sufficient.
Third, if the case is uncontested, evidence from one of the parties, and a third party corroborating the separation, is taken by a deposition of by a signed affidavit. This usually occurs in the lawyer’s office. The deposition is recorded, typed, and printed out, or, in the case of the affidavit, typed, printed and signed in front of a notary public. In some cases, evidence is taken before the judge in an oral hearing. If the divorce is contested, the evidence will be taken in court.
Fourth, the depositions or affidavits, a proposed Final Decree of Divorce, and other papers are sent to the judge to be reviewed.
Finally, if everything is in order, the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce and your proceedings are complete.
Some people may qualify for an annulment instead of a divorce. An annulment is a legal decree that a marriage is void. Certain marriages are void, meaning that they cannot continue regardless of whether the parties wish them to. Other marriages are voidable, meaning that the marriage can be declared void by an annulment, but can also be affirmed.
If an annulment is granted that means that the marriage never existed. Therefore, a judge cannot award alimony or divide property in an annulment proceeding. However, either party can petition the juvenile and domestic relations district court or a judge can decide issues of custody, visitation and child support.
- The following are grounds for an annulment in Virginia: Either party consented to the marriage under condition of fraud or duress.
- Either party was physically or mentally incompetent.
- Either party was a felon or prostitute without the other’s knowledge
- Either party is impotent.
- The wife was pregnant by another man without the husband’s knowledge.
- The husband fathered a child born to another woman, without the wife’s knowledge, within 10 months of the marriage.
- Failure to have a marriage license or to have the marriage solemnized according to law.
- One of the parties was married to someone else at the time of this marriage.
- Either party was under the age of 18.
Some of these grounds have specific rules, and there are defenses to an annulment. You should discuss your situation with an attorney, who can explain the specific rules and determine if your situation qualifies for an annulment.
Family Law Attorney in Alexandria
If you are considering divorce or annulment, please contact us. Our award-winning attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and skill to help you through the divorce process and achieve the best outcome for you.
People often prefer divorce mediation to litigation. Divorce mediation aims to resolve divorce in a peaceable, cost and time-effective way that is beneficial to both parties. This is done through open communication with the use of a third-party mediator. Let’s look at what divorce mediation is and where you can find a mediator in Reston.
A mediator is an unbiased, neutral third party. Mediation specialists have the skills and experience to comfortably guide you to a comprehensive resolution of all issues involved in your divorce. The main goal of a mediator is to facilitate negotiation between the parties, so that the parties are able to reach a resolution that is tailored to their particular family and circumstances.
In Lieu of Litigation
Choosing mediation instead of litigation can be very advantageous for you and your spouse. It is typically a more comfortable way to navigate divorce and provides several benefits including:
- Mutually beneficial. Divorce mediation seeks an outcome that suits all parties and is agreed upon by both.
- Cost-effective. Divorce mediation is generally far less expensive than litigation.
- Mediation only takes as long as is needed to reach agreements. This could be finished in one session or several sessions over the course of a few weeks, whereas litigation may last a year or more.
- Preserves relationships. Divorce mediation can help you resolve your problems amicably and helps to preserve relationships and ease stress on the entire family.
- If no court intervention is needed, divorce mediation remains confidential.
Divorce Mediation in Reston
If you are considering a divorce and think that divorce mediation is right for you, please give us a call. At Grenadier, Duffett, Levi, Winkler & Rubin, our attorneys have the skills and experience to help you navigate the mediation process. Contact us today to learn more!
Filing for divorce in Alexandria, VA requires that certain procedures be followed. Choosing an attorney familiar with this jurisdiction is recommended. Read our guide to divorce in Alexandria VA.
Each jurisdiction is slightly different when it comes to its policies and procedures. If you’re getting a divorce in Loudoun County, you’ll want to be aware of these particular procedures.
Hiring an attorney experienced with your jurisdiction is crucial for the smoothest experience possible. This information is also important for pro se divorces.