In general, there are two different types of divorce that a couple that no longer wishes to be married could seek in Virginia: contested and uncontested. Below, we will discuss what constitutes a contested divorce and why it is advisable to hire a divorce attorney to help you navigate through the divorce process.
What Is A Contested Divorce?
In a contested divorce, the two parties cannot reach an agreement regarding a part of the separation agreement. A divorce is considered “contested” as long as the two spouses disagree about the terms of a settlement.
For most couples in a contested divorce, the disagreement will be over one of the following points included in the separation agreement. These points include:
Property division – If couples have joint, marital property, they may disagree about who should get what. For instance, who should get the family car or the family home?
Spousal Support – The payor may object to the proposed amount of spousal support they must pay each month if they feel it is too high, while the payee may object to the amount if it is too low.
Child support – Either parent may have issues with the child support they are paying or receiving. – A limited liability corporation (LLC) has characteristics of both a general partnership and a corporation. LLC’s offer businesspeople many advantages, including structural flexibility, freedom from personal liability, avoiding double taxation, and reduced administrative hassle.
Child custody – Some couples may disagree about who should have primary custody of the children.
Attorney’s fees – Often, a couple cannot agree on paying for court costs and lawyer’s fees.
Debt – Couples may disagree about who should pay certain debts the couple has accrued while married.
Retirement – If either of the spouses has retirement benefits, there could be objections over who receives those funds.
Disputes over conditions in the separation agreement are not the only reason a divorce may be contested.
Grounds For Contested Divorce In Virginia
A couple may also have grounds for a contested divorce if the divorce qualifies as fault based. These grounds include:
Desertion (Actual or Constructive) – If one spouse leaves and lives their life away from the other for at least one year with malicious intent, then a divorce can be initiated on the grounds of abandonment/desertion. However, context is essential. If a spouse left the other because they were victims of physical abuse, that would not be considered abandonment. It is also worth noting that if the spouse who abandoned the other has used joint assets to pay for expenses while away, that may entitle the plaintiff to a more significant portion of overall marital property.
Adultery – Adultery is one of the most commonly cited grounds for a contested divorce. However, the standard of proof for adultery is high. Virginia state law classifies adultery as a crime (Class 4 misdemeanor). Therefore, to prove an adultery allegation, the spouse bringing the complaint must provide the court with clear and convincing evidence of fault.
Cruelty – Cruelty is broadly defined, but in general, any act that may cause a person bodily harm and endanger their life or health can be considered an act of cruelty. A pattern of physical abuse does not necessarily need to be established; in fact, just one act of abuse that results in a severe enough injury could qualify as cruelty. Physical abuse is also not the only form of cruelty. Psychological abuse, including humiliation and verbal abuse, could also be considered cruelty.
A criminal conviction, under certain circumstances – If one spouse were convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least one year in jail, that would give the other spouse grounds for a divorce.
Each of the grounds for a contested divorce has multiple defenses, so the spouse who is bringing the complaint must be able to demonstrate, with evidence, that the accusations are valid in a court of law.
How Long Does A Contested Divorce Take?
Every divorce is unique, so there is no set date for when your divorce will be resolved. The length of the divorce will depend on the circumstances of your case, such as the number of disputes over items in the separation agreement. Proving a fault-based divorce can also take time, as evidence must be gathered and presented before a court.
Some contested items in divorces resolve within a few weeks, while others can last for months. In general, the sooner the two spouses can get on the same page, come to an agreement, and resolve their disputes, the sooner the divorce can be finalized. If the two parties cannot agree, the process will take longer since the couple will have to wait for a judge to decide their case.
Why Do I Need An Experienced Lawyer To Represent Me?
Divorce is more complicated when it is contested. However, a divorce attorney can make the process smoother and might even expedite your case.
You need an experienced legal professional with extensive knowledge of Virginia divorce law to defend your rights in court and advocate for your interests. If you try to go it alone, you could end up losing marital property or having to pay more than is fair in child support and spousal support. This is especially true if your spouse has retained an attorney.
If you want to ensure your rights are protected, it is highly recommended that you hire a skilled divorce attorney.
Why Choose Us?
The divorce attorneys at Taylor, Taylor & Taylor, Inc. have the necessary experience and resources to protect your parental and property rights in court. Contact us today to discuss your case and evaluate your legal options with one of our compassionate divorce lawyers.