The decision to get divorced is a momentous one. You, your spouse or the two of you have decided your marriage must end. Your entire future, along with that of your children, will be different than what you once expected. Hopefully, it will be better once you are free of an unhappy marriage, and you can choose a different path.

That is the long term. For the coming months, your divorce is going to take up a lot of your time and energy. Fortunately, a divorce attorney will take most of the burden off of you and guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage step by step.

The five basic steps of divorce

Every divorce is different, but there is a basic process everyone in Virginia must follow:

  1. First, you must qualify to file for divorce in the state. That means you or your spouse must be a resident of Virginia for at least six months. The majority of people file for no-fault divorce, which requires either a six- or 12-month separation before you can file for divorce, depending on whether or not you have children.
  2. Once you have met the residency and separation requirements, you may file a Complaint for Divorce to begin the process. The spouse who files the complaint must serve the document to the other spouse.
  3. The circuit court where you filed the Complaint for Divorce will schedule a trial date, but the vast majority of divorces settle out of court. In fact, if you and your spouse have already agreed on all essential matters like property division, child custody and child support, you can file your signed agreement with the court and have it incorporated in the Final Order of Divorce without having to go to court at all.
  4. Otherwise, you and your attorney will work toward a settlement with your spouse and their lawyer. This could take the form of divorce mediation or negotiations without a mediator’s help.  Negotiations may have begun before the complaint for divorce was filed, and usually continue until either a settlement is reached or it becomes clear that a trial will be necessary.
  5. In some cases, negotiations break down and the spouses must go to trial to settle some or all the necessary matters.

Whatever your top priorities are in your divorce, your attorney will create a strategy to help make those needs a reality.