No Fault Divorce in Virginia: Contested versus Uncontested
In most cases, no fault divorces are much easier than fault-based divorces because you don’t have to spend the time in court proving that your fault grounds exist. There are two different kinds of no-fault divorces: contested, and uncontested.
Either a fault-based or a no-fault based divorce can be contested. By “contested,” I mean that the parties themselves can’t agree to all the terms of the agreement, so they go to court to let the judge decide. In a no-fault divorce, obviously, you don’t have to spend the same time proving your fault grounds (because you don’t have them), but you can spend the exact same amount of time in court after that point, arguing about custody, support, or equitable distribution.
If you and your husband can’t agree on how your property, assets, and liabilities will all be divided, your divorce will be much more complicated, because the judge will have to do it for you. There are also a lot of hurdles you have to jump before you actually get to trial. For example, you’ll probably have to schedule at least one settlement conference. The time it takes for your attorney to prepare for the settlement conference and then, later, for trial, is substantial and can greatly add to the costs. And then the decision is ultimately in the hands of the judge, and you relinquish control over the outcome completely. That’s a pretty scary thing, too!
An uncontested no-fault divorce, on the other hand, is a no-fault divorce in which all of the issues are already resolved. The parties have entered into a separation agreement, a legal contract that formally determines who everything will be divided. After that point, since the judge isn’t needed to make any decisions about who should receive what, the divorce is a simple process. You have an uncontested divorce hearing (where you bring a corroborating witness), which lasts 10-15 minutes, or your attorney files the paperwork to get you a divorce by affidavit without even having to go to court. Either way, because the big issues have already been resolved, it’s a very quick and painless process.
The important thing to remember here is that, just because you choose to not move forward on fault-based grounds, doesn’t necessarily mean that your divorce will be smooth sailing. Whether you choose to proceed on fault or no fault grounds, the real indication of how complicated your divorce will be is whether it is contested or uncontested.
In most cases, it’s far better to settle your case than to fight tooth and nail to the death. Remember, a divorce case is different than a personal injury case, because there’s no insurance company who is going to pay out millions of extra dollars. What you have to divide in your divorce is what you already had before you divorced, and you’ll have much, much less if you spend all your money fighting. Speak to an attorney, make a plan, negotiate a fair deal, and, if possible, stay out of court.