You’re in the right place, and you’re asking the right questions. There’s no such thing as a cookie cutter divorce; there are so many different factors and variables that no two divorces are the same. Things like how long you’ve been married can really affect the way your divorce works out, so that’s why we’ve separated the information here by length of marriage. That way, you can navigate directly to the information that will be most beneficial for you, in your specific situation. After all, what good is it going to do to find information that applies to someone else?
It’s really pretty simple. You can only get divorced in a couple of different ways. Either you negotiate a separation agreement, or you go to court. (Or, in some situations, you negotiate an agreement and go to court, but you only litigate the issues on which you couldn’t agree.)
A separation agreement is a legal contract that divides all the assets, liabilities, and responsibilities in your marriage between you and your husband. It handles everything, from real and personal property (like the house and all of your furniture), to custody, visitation, and support, as well as spousal support, retirement accounts, credit card and student loan debt, tax issues (like who gets to claim the child or children as a dependent on the tax return), and more.
Having a separation agreement in place means that you can file for an uncontested, no fault divorce. (Alternatively, you would go to court, which means that your divorce could be based on either fault or no fault grounds, but that it would be contested–meaning, essentially, that you couldn’t agree on everything beforehand, and have to have a judge decide for you.)
You can get a separation agreement in place in a number of different ways. You can hire an attorney to negotiate one on your behalf (which is probably the most common way). You can go to mediation. You can hire a collaboratively trained attorney and go through the collaborative divorce process. You can also negotiate an agreement on your own, without hiring an attorney. The end goal is always the same (the separation agreement), but the way of reaching that goal can sometimes look a little different.
Sometimes it happens. Not every divorce can settle, and that’s okay. Your divorce will probably be one of the single biggest financial transactions of your life and, since your kids are also involved, it’s doubly serious. If your husband is a bully, you may wind up in court, whether you like it or not. It’s important to go into the courtroom prepared, with an experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney by your side.
You should take your divorce seriously, and have a talk with your attorney about what you hope to get out of it. Envision yourself on the day your final divorce decree gets entered, and ask yourself where you’d like to be. What do you need to get your fresh new start? You may have to go to court to get it, depending on your situation, but you should talk to an attorney ahead of time to get an idea of whether the juice is really worth the squeeze.