Steps involved in an Uncontested Divorce

Virginia law permits a divorce when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for one year and at least one of the parties had the intention that the separation was to be permanent. If there are no minor children and a written agreement as to all issues has been signed, 6 months of separation is sufficient.

The steps for obtaining a divorce are straight forward assuming all issues regarding child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support and division of marital property and debt have been resolved. The typical way to resolve issues is by a written property settlement agreement (PSA). Once the time has run to allow court filing, this is the process:

1. File a complaint for divorce. Note: the court only acquires jurisdiction to grant a divorce based on voluntary separation once you've been separated for the required time period. You cannot file for an uncontested divorce file prior to the expiration of the 12 or 6 months separation period, whichever is applicable. This is true even if the divorce were not to be granted until after the period has run; the complaint must not be filed early.

2. Give the complaint to the spouse and ask him or her to sign a waiver form. The waiver allows you to avoid hiring a process server for formal service of the complaint, and allows various steps to go forward without notice to the other side. This saves time and money. The waiver form has to be notarized.

3. Prepare the final decree for the judge to sign, including a separate document (a private addendum) that contains social security numbers (by law, those numbers have to be kept separate from the full divorce file, which is a public record.)

4. Complete a VS-4 form, a State required statistical form.

5. Complete affidavits by you and a corroborating witness. These affidavits provide basic factual information and the evidence the court needs of your residence (or your spouse's residence) in Virginia, and that you've lived separate and apart for the required time period.

5. Submit the signed final decree and private addendum, and the originals of the affidavits, the waiver, and the PSA (if there is one) and the VS-4 form to the court.

If there are retirement accounts to be divided, there are special rules that apply to avoid unnecessarily imposition of taxes. You need to consult with a lawyer when retirement accounts are being divided.

The steps for an uncontested divorce are not onerous, but procedure needs to be followed. It is easy to make a mistake when you've not done the process before. Many lawyers charge a flat fee for an uncontested divorce. It is recommended that you retain an attorney to help you if at all possible.

The Gubin law office charges a flat fee of $850 for steps 1 through 5 above, plus there is an $86 court filing fee. Preparation of a PSA or the documents for dividing retirement accounts are priced separately. Women can change their married name back to their maiden name as part of the divorce process. Such name change requires an affidavit and several documents.

Please contact this office if you have any questions. Telephone inquiries are answered without charge.