What happens in Virginia divorce if we just can’t agree?

Posted on Feb 8, 2023 by Katie Carter

I have a case where everything is negotiated down to one of the tiniest points imaginable. Without giving specifics, I’ll just say that it amounts to about an hour or parenting time one day a year – literally, one single hour.

No one is budging.

In my client’s defense, her husband has been fairly abusive and manipulative. He has changed things up a lot over time, and he makes really passive aggressive comments about how she is the problem. Usually, she just deals with it – but, on this particular point, she’s not budging. Honestly, even though it’s only an hour, I can’t say I blame her.

Her husband is – predictably – making nasty comments about how it’s all her fault, even though he’s not budging, either.

This is a point we sometimes arrive at in difficult negotiations. After all, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ divorce, and there’s no particular issue, big or small, that we force people to resolve in a particular way. In order to get a separation agreement, and pursue an uncontested divorce, both parties have to agree. In that way, even the tiniest sticking point can ultimately hold an entire case hostage.

The alternative, unfortunately, is litigation.

Yes, if these two can’t agree about how to handle one hour of parenting time – literally, one hour in an entire year – their case will be litigated. Whatever they discussed up to this point, and even the fact that they are on the verge of a complete and total agreement, is not admissible in court. If one (or both) parties want to litigate one or every single other issue in the divorce, they still can. They aren’t bound by the things that they almost agreed to because, after all, the agreement isn’t signed. They have, essentially, agreed to nothing at this point even though, according to them both, they’d sign if we could resolve this little leftover issue. Ultimately, who knows? Unless and until they put pen to paper, nothing is set in stone.

Is this the hill you want to die on?

That’s always the question. Is this issue literally so important that you’d justify the resolution of the entire case over it?

Of course, that’s a simplification. Even the most placid, agreeable person can only be pushed so far. You can “is this the hill” person to the point that literally any issue that comes up would be the one they’re ready to die on, thank you very much. A million little things become not so little. And a bad attitude from your soon to be ex makes it even worse.

Still, it’s a question of perspective. What is important, and what isn’t? Is resolving your case quickly and inexpensively your #1 goal? Or is this particular issue one of the things that is of all critical importance to you? Only you can make that determination.

Ultimately, there are only two ways forward: with a signed agreement, or with a full contested hearing and a judge’s determination. Most people prefer to keep resolution in their own hands, rather than leave it up to a judge. But, still, there are others for whom litigation is really the only alternative, especially if your partner is determined to “is this the hill” you to death.

It’s partially up to you, but it’s also partially down to your partner, his reasonableness, and the reasonableness of the attorney he hires. You can control your part, but, at the end of the day, there’s a fair bit that out of your control as well.

For more information, to request a free copy of our divorce book for Virginia women, or to find out more about a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.