Divorce Proceedings in Northern Virginia
Virginia law contains mechanisms for all aspects of a divorce proceeding, including equitable distribution (property division and allocation of debts), spousal support, child custody and visitation, and child support. Potential clients who contact me about their upcoming Northern Virginia divorce proceeding frequently ask: How do I obtain a legal separation? Surprisingly, the answer is: There is no legal separation in Virginia. Divorce proceedings are governed by state law, so this is not the case in every state. Virginia has its own set of family law statutes, and so does Washington, DC, Maryland, New York, etc. However, the lack of a formal “separated” status in Northern Virginia does not preclude a couple from separating (in fact, it is required for a no-fault divorce), nor does it preclude legal action prior to your divorce being filed. A divorce lawyer in Northern Virginia can assist with proper planning that should take place before you take action.
If There is No Legal Separation, What Can I Do?
People who recently separated have access to nearly the same forms of relief as parties in a divorce case. First, parties who are proactive about working toward a resolution may go as far as settling the entire divorce prior to the date the case is filed. This can be accomplished through family law alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or the collaborative process; traditional negotiation with a divorce lawyer in Northern Virginia works too. Divorcing couples, who successfully settle their case at an early stage, typically end the mediation, collaborative or traditional negotiation process with the execution of a “Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.” This Agreement is a contract between the divorcing couple that has final settlement provisions for all relevant issues to their marriage, such as equitable distribution, spousal support, child custody, visitation and child support. The agreement is usually incorporated into the final divorce decree.
Relief is Available During Separation Period from Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court
Most couples going through a divorce in Northern Virginia unfortunately are not able to resolve issues of property division, spousal support, custody and visitation, and child support so quickly. Often times, it takes several months, if not longer, for both parties to process the situation, become fully informed about their rights in Northern Virginia divorce proceedings, and agree to final terms. In the interim, parties may need temporary (also called “pendente lite”) spousal support, child support, or custody and visitation orders from the court. If there are not any fault grounds present, and the parties intend to file a no-fault divorce based on the requisite separation period, parties may still seek relief from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts in Northern Virginia. Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts have authority to grant relief to a separated (but still married) spouse for spousal support, custody and visitation and child support. Even if a party is not married, they can still seek relief from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts for matters related to their children, such as custody, visitation, and child support.
Planning how and when to seek relief, whether you are married living separate, or unmarried and living apart from your significant other, is a complicated process and is best done with the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer in Northern Virginia.