Divorce is never an easy process for a married couple and their children. Child custody, child and spousal support, custody and visitation, and the division of property owned by the couple are some of the issues that must be resolved. A contested divorce is when couples cannot come to an agreement on all of issues and must go before a court to resolve them. This is when the contested divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., can be of assistance.
Couples Must Establish Jurisdiction
Before a court can hear a contested divorce case, it must have jurisdiction as required by law. In Virginia, the law requires at least one of the parties in a divorce to be a resident and domiciliary of the commonwealth for at least six months prior to the commencement of the court action. Members of the military stationed at Norfolk Naval Station, Langley AFB, Fort Eustis, Fort Story, Oceana, Little Creek Amphibious Base, and other military locations in the commonwealth satisfy the residency requirement by having been stationed there for at least six months.
Grounds a Couple Should Know Before Filing for a Contested Divorce
A court order, also known as a Final Decree of Divorce, is required to terminate the bonds of matrimony under the laws of Virginia. A contested divorce can only be granted by a judge if there are legal grounds for doing so. In Virginia, some of the legal grounds for divorce include:
- Adultery, Sodomy or Buggery: Parties making allegations of wrongdoing through their divorce attorneys does not satisfy the requirement of proof sufficient for a court to grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery, sodomy or buggery unless there is conclusive evidence to support them. The person seeking the divorce must prove that his or her spouse engaged in the conduct outside of the marriage. In many cases, adulterous relationships will not be grounds for divorce if it was done with the spouse’s consent.
- Felony Conviction: When one spouse is convicted of a felony and is confined to prison for more than a year, the other spouse can use the conviction as grounds for divorce. Divorce attorneys in Virginia usually advise individuals who might have grounds for divorce based on conviction of a felony that cohabiting with the convicted spouse could nullify it as a basis for getting a divorce. When proceeding on these grounds, the moving party may have to hire a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the incarcerated spouse thorough the divorce proceedings. This ads time and cost to the divorce process.
- Cruelty or Abandonment: When one spouse engages in conduct causing or putting the other spouse in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, it could be grounds for divorce as can willful desertion or abandonment. There is a waiting period of one year from the date of the acts before cruelty, abandonment or desertion can be used as the basis for a divorce.
Grounds a Couple Should Know Before Filing for a Contested Divorce (cont.)
- Separation: The law recognizes living separate and apart from each other for a continuous period of at least one year as grounds for a divorce by either of the spouses. If there is a property settlement or separation agreement in place, the waiting period can be six months instead of a year if the couple does not have any minor children. Typically, one filing for an un-contested divorce will allege this as their grounds for divorce.
The Contested Divorce Process in Virginia
After a client retains the services of the divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., one of the first things our attorney might do is prepare a complaint showing the basis for the court having jurisdiction, such as one of the parties residing in Newport News, and the grounds upon which the request for a divorce is predicated. A complaint for divorce will contain the moving parties demand for relief:
- Child Custody: Judges are guided by the best interest of the child when deciding how to award custody. They can award joint legal custody which allows both parents to participate in making decisions about such things as medical care, education and religion. Sole legal custody places the responsibility for making decisions about the care and welfare of the child in the hands of only one parent. There are many factors taken into consideration by a judge when custody is in dispute, including the home environment of each parent, the age of the child, the needs of the child and the role each parent has played in the life of the child.
- Child Support: Whether the parents of a child live in Norfolk, Suffolk, Poquoson or Williamsburg does not change the fact that Virginia law imposes the obligation to support their minor children on each of the parents. Courts take into consideration the income of each of the parties, the time-sharing schedule with the child and other factors when awarding child support.
- Spousal Support: Courts can award support to a spouse who might need it to make the transition from being dependent on the support of the other spouse during the marriage.
- Property Division: Virginia is an equitable distribution jurisdiction, where property can be classified as either marital or separate. Marital property is treated as belonging to both parties and is subject to distribution as part of the divorce process. Separate property, such as property owned by one of the parties prior to the marriage, could be excluded from distribution, but a Virginia divorce lawyer should be consulted for legal advice and guidance about the intricacies of equitable distribution.
After the divorce complaint is filed with the court, it must be served on the opposing spouse who has an opportunity to submit an answer in response.
Choosing a Hampton Roads Divorce Law Firm
A contested divorce can take several months or longer before it goes to trial or is settled. During the time between commencement of the case and its conclusion, a party's divorce lawyers can request temporary support, temporary custody and other relief through applications to the court for pendent lite relief.
The Virginia divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., have more than 70 years of combined experience they use to achieve outstanding results for their clients. We have four Hampton Roads locations in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake and Newport News serving the surrounding cities and counties of Poquoson, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as York, James City and Gloucester Counties. Call today at 757-896-0868 to schedule an appointment.