Not every divorce is the same. In fact, almost every divorce is different, at least in some way. But there are certain similarities we can draw from divorces that have similar characteristics. Just like we group custody and visitation cases by the age of the children involved, and spousal support cases by the length of the marriage, there is a small contingent of cases where, because of two factors they are in common, the parties can get divorced quicker than any other couples.
In Virginia, if you (1) don’t have minor children, and (2) have already signed a separation agreement, you can get divorced after just six months of separation.
That is the fastest you can possibly get divorced, unless you have some miracle way of PROVING adultery and scheduling a hearing faster than 6 months (which I think is probably unlikely). If you can prove adultery, you can get an “immediate” divorce, but I’ve literally never seen that happen. If nothing else, it’s not immediate in the sense that it’s not like you can say divorce three times in a row and it miraculously severs the bond of matrimony. Like, not at all. Bare minimum, it takes time to file a case and set a hearing – often, far, far more than six months.
Anyway, a contested divorce alleging adultery is a very, very different animal than an uncontested no fault divorce where affidavits are prepared.
But, yeah, if you meet those two criteria, you can get the fastest divorce available in Virginia, which is – if you’re wanting a divorce – a really good thing.
What does it mean to be separated?
In Virginia, you have to be separated for six months prior to filing for a divorce if you meet the criteria. But what does it mean to be separated?
You can live separate and apart under the same roof, but, really, separation refers to how you’re living. Whether or not you live in the same home, you should live, and behave, the way you would if you lived in completely separate physical spaces.
That applies to how you live and behave inside of the home, and also (and this part is hard) how you live and behave outside of the home. That means that it’s not going to be good enough to just separate when you’re on your own; friends and family will have to know, too. You can’t separate and attend weddings together, or go to neighborhood block parties, or attend church as a couple. You’re not a couple, and you’re headed towards divorce. As uncomfortable as it is, people should know.
They’ll need to know, too. Because, at the end of it all, you’ll need to be able to provide a corroborating witness to testify that you’ve been separated for the statutory period. They’ll need to be able to testify to the date of separation you’ve alleged, too – all the dates need to match, and you need someone who can testify to what you’ve alleged, exactly. It’s hard to do that if you don’t tell people what’s up.
I mean, you don’t have to take out a billboard or anything. But sharing with family and friends is kind of necessary at this stage. If you’re truly separated, according to the Virginia definition of legal separation, you have formed the intent to end the marriage and stopped cohabitating. That doesn’t mean you’re working on the marriage or still attending marriage counseling – that means you’ve decided that it’s over.
What does it mean to not have minor children?
I mean, I do think this is obvious, but just to clarify: it doesn’t mean you don’t have children. It just means that those children are not 17 or younger.
On the day that a child turns 18, he or she is no longer a child, and, therefore, not subject to a custody and/or visitation determination.
We get parents asking all the time when a child is able to decide for themselves whether to go to visitation with another parent or whether a certain parenting schedule should be followed if a kid just doesn’t want to go – and the answer is simple: when they’re 18. Up until that point, they’re children, and it’s not up to them. It’s up to parents, and it’s up to the court. So, if visitation is ordered, the child has to go – and you have to make them. Or YOU risk the consequences!
In a lot of cases, parties don’t have children – and that makes it easy. They qualify for the 6 month separation automatically. But I often hear parents of grown children thinking out loud and assuming that they don’t qualify because they do have children.
Once your children are grown, you qualify for the 6 month separation, too.
Assuming you have a separation agreement.
What’s a separation agreement?
There are two ways to get a divorce in Virginia: in front of a judge, and by agreement. A separation agreement is a legal contract that divides all the assets and liabilities in your marriage between you. Rather than allowing a judge to do it, you divide it yourselves.
If you can’t reach an agreement, you go to court – and face a one year separation.
It’s ideal, because you do the deciding. Not only that, but it often costs less, too. Going to trial is expensive and time consuming.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation to learn more about your 6 month divorce options, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.