As of July 1, 2012, couples meeting certain criteria seeking a divorce can now finalize their uncontested matter without making a court appearance. Prior to the amended law (Va. Code §20-106), each jurisdiction had its own procedures for finalizing an uncontested divorce, ranging from a mandatory court appearance to testify before the Court to submitting deposition transcripts. The new law makes it mandatory for all jurisdictions to allow the finalization of the divorce by affidavit or deposition if the following criteria are met: (i) the parties have resolved all issues by a written settlement agreement, (ii) there are no issues other than the grounds of the divorce itself to be adjudicated, or (iii) the adverse party has been personally served with the complaint and has failed to file a responsive pleading or to make an appearance as required by law.
What does this mean for Virginia couples contemplating an amenable and/or uncontested divorce?
If any of these three conditions are met, we can proceed without a physical appearance before the court. This saves you time and money, making the process more comfortable and convenient. This is especially helpful in Tidewater with such a heavy military population and presence, as many clients could be out of state or overseas.
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Each jurisdiction still has its own procedural quirks, so it is important to know the court in which you are filing, but it is good news at least that the framework is in place to make the already-difficult-enough process of getting divorced a little easier. The bill does not change the legal standards to qualify for a divorce, but it regularizes what the plaintiff and witness have to testify about and how. One Spouse still must be a bona fide resident of Virginia for the six months prior to the divorce action being filed. Before July, the content and form for this testimony varied between cities and counties. Our firm has not only prepared the necessary forms for this new law, the local courts accepted and issued our clients their divorce decrees all in a timely manner.