For most people, divorce is a lengthy process. However, how lengthy it will be for you will boil down to two main factors: Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, and whether you and your spouse have children together.
While there is no way to anticipate how long your divorce will take, as your and your spouse’s personal differences may elongate the process, there are certain time constraints you can count on. SmartAsset details the process for a Virginia divorce, which includes separation requirements.
Separation requirements for an uncontested divorce
If you and your spouse plan to follow through with an uncontested divorce, automatically tack on six months to a year to your estimated timeframe for the process. The state of Virginia requires couples who do not have children to separate for at least six months before they can even file for divorce. If you and your spouse do not have children, you must work together to come up with and present to the courts a written separation agreement that details how you plan to fairly divide your marital property. Additionally, you must both agree that you can no longer live together in matrimony.
If you and your spouse have children, the courts will extend the separation period to one year. The written separation agreement that you come up with must include an appropriate solution for the support and custody of your children.
The courts understand that it is not always possible for couples to maintain two households while preparing for divorce. To accommodate for this fact, the law defines separation to mean that both spouses have a different sleeping arrangement and that they do not engage in physical relations.
Separation requirements for a contested divorce
If you and your spouse cannot come to a satisfactory agreement regarding the division of property and/or child custody, the courts will deem your divorce “contested.” In a contested divorce, the courts will make major decisions on your behalf. The law does not have a separation requirement for contested divorces, but that does not necessarily mean the process will be shorter than an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce takes eight to nine months to complete for couples who do not have children. This timeframe includes the six-month separation, meaning after the mandatory separation period, a judge will finalize the decree within two to three months. A contested divorce, however, typically takes 18 months from the date of filing to complete. If neither party makes an appeal, the divorce becomes final 30 days after the judge signs the decree.