(Very) Short Virginia Marriages
We all make mistakes. Some mistakes are bigger than others, of course, but we all make them. If you were recently married, but have realized that it was a big mistake and you’re ready to work on finalizing a divorce… well, I don’t know the specifics yet, but I’d venture to say that it’s not even that big of a mistake. Sure, it’s a bit of a complication, and you’re probably feeling a little bit embarrassed, but a couple months of marriage and then a quick uncontested divorce is hardly the end of the world.
I say it all the time: there’s no badge of honor for staying in an unproductive, unhappy, unfulfilling marriage. The sooner you figure out that your marriage isn’t for you, the better. Obviously, it’s ideal if you do it before you walk down the aisle or see the justice of the peace, but we all have our own paths in life, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. But, still, if you can do it before commingling all your assets, having children, or even changing your last name – well, it’s ideal.
I had a case like that recently, and, I have to say, it was a breath of fresh air. She still needed some help getting herself out of the mess that she was in, but the parties had been married for only a couple short months. They didn’t have anything together. No real estate, no bank accounts, no health insurance, no nothing. I have to admit, it made things all very neat and tidy. There was no question of support, because there were no children in common, and the marriage wasn’t long enough for either party to really feel that they relied on the other for any financial support at all.
She was upset – and understandably so – but, in many ways, a quickie divorce after a quickie marriage is about as easy as it gets.
I don’t say that to minimize your suffering, which I’m sure has been severe. But I do say it to – hopefully – apply a little balm to that wound so that you can begin the healing process. We all make mistakes. But at least yours isn’t a thirty year, three kid mistake! Right? (Trust me, that’s right!)
I write articles based on what I’ve seen most recently in my practice, and the heartbroken girl I saw the other day in my office really touched my heart and made me want to speak directly to others who might be similarly situated. It’s not easy, but you’ll get through – and I’ve compiled this list of tips specifically for you.
I’m getting divorced after just a few months of marriage. What do I need to know?
1. The rules are the same – either you get divorced in an agreement, or you get divorced in court.
In Virginia, there are just two ways to get divorced – by agreement, or in court. Ideally, you’ll draft an agreement that divides any property you might share in common (or, in the alternative, just acknowledges that you have none), because this will entitle you to get a divorce the quickest.
Can you draft it yourself? Yes. That’s always an option. The laws here are clear; you can always represent yourself in a divorce or custody case. Do I recommend it? No. Even in a case where there’s nothing in common at all, an attorney can do a lot of things to help protect you.
I often say that my job is twofold: one, to get you divorced (I mean, obviously), and two, to make sure that nothing nasty comes up later that will take time, cost money, or cause you any additional frustration. Lawyer drafted documents include all sorts of provisions designed to protect you, and it’s best to have those in there. Also, I find that people who draft their own agreements make mistakes – like, for example, leaving out a provision related to real estate or retirement entirely, just because they don’t have any in common – rather than handling it properly in the agreement and acknowledging that these assets don’t exist (or, if they do, that they’re not marital in nature). These kinds of mistakes can cause problems later on and, perhaps worse, can cause delays that eat up your time and cost you extra money. With a quickie divorce situation, you want to have it over and behind you as quickly as possible, am I right?
2. If you don’t have children in common, you can get divorced after just six months of separation – as long as you have a signed agreement.
An agreement is about as quick an easy as it gets, provided that he’s willing to sign. In Virginia, you can get divorced after just six months of separation with a signed agreement (and no minor children in common). I’m not saying you can’t have children or he can’t have children, just that you don’t have any children that were either born to or adopted during the marriage. Since it’s only been a couple months, you probably don’t. (And, if you do, it’s really not such a simple situation anymore.)
If you don’t have an agreement in place, you’ll have to have a divorce trial – and, for that, you’ll have to be separated for a full year. So, there’s another reason to negotiate an agreement – it makes things a whole heck of a lot faster.
3. An uncontested divorce is pretty quick; certainly quicker than an annulment (if you’re thinking you might qualify for one of those – which, sorry to say, you probably don’t.
In a short term marriage situation, we often get a lot of questions about annulment. Even if you do clearly qualify, which you probably don’t, a divorce is typically faster and cheaper. Why? Well, to get an annulment, you’ll have to prove that your grounds exist, and you’ll have to have a trial to do so. Going to trial is more expensive than reaching an agreement, and getting a trial date may take longer, too. Courts dockets are super backed up, and it’s often difficult to even get a date in the next six months. Not to mention the added expense!
If you aren’t able to prove your grounds for annulment, too, your case will be dismissed and you’re back at square 1 – you still need a divorce. While an annulment isn’t always the answer (in fact, I’ve never seen it be the answer!), you can always just get a divorce. In the case of an uncontested divorce by a separation agreement, it’s pretty easy, too. (Again, assuming he’ll sign.)
You’re in the right place, and you’re asking the right questions. I know right now this seems pretty terrible, but it’s really not as bleak as all that. We’re used to sorting out much bigger messes than this.
For more information about the divorce process in Virginia, request a free copy of our divorce book, attend a divorce seminar, or call our office at 757-425-5200 to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.