Divorce FAQs

How do I start the process of getting a divorce in Virginia?

Before you start a divorce, you should meet with Jonathan Murdoch-Kitt. He can talk to you about the specifics of your situation. He will go through your options with you and tell you if there are things you can handle on your own, and things that will require legal assistance.

Do I need a divorce lawyer?

In order to get a divorce in Virginia, you have to file in the Circuit Court in your County or City. The Circuit Court is a Court of record and the Court rules make it tough to handle the procedure on your own without a lawyer. Most lawyers will tell you that you need a lawyer to get a divorce in Virginia because of the legal procedures involved.

How much does a divorce cost?

Each divorce is different. Every issue and every family is different, which is why no two divorces cost the same. If you have questions about what your legal fees and costs may be, please contact us. When you finish your consultation, you should have a good idea of what your retainer will be. A retainer is a payment in advance for fees and costs, needed to hire us as your lawyer on your divorce case. Once we are hired to represent you, you will be charged based on the time spent when work is done. The initial consultation is billed at Jonathan Murdoch-Kitt’s hourly rate.

Are there different kinds of divorce? What is a Fault divorce compared to a No Fault divorce?

There are two different kinds of divorce in Virginia. One is based on fault grounds, the other is no-fault. If you are filing on a fault ground like adultery, desertion, abandonment, reasonable fear of bodily harm, physical cruelty or mental cruelty, there is no waiting period in Virginia to start the divorce.

A no-fault divorce, sometimes referred to as irreconcilable differences, means that you are not claiming a fault ground against your spouse. You just do not want to be married to the other person anymore. Most divorces in Virginia are on no-fault grounds. If you are filing on a no-fault ground, see below.

How long must I be separated to qualify for a no fault divorce?

The statutory minimum for a no fault divorce for a family with children under 18 years of age, is a one year separation. Married people without children or with adult children can file after six months of separation if they can agree on all of the issues, divide the assets and sign a property settlement agreement. A property settlement agreement is a written agreement where you describe how you will resolve all of the issues of your divorce in terms of the assets. If you do not have a property settlement agreement, you must be separated a minimum of one year before you can file.

How can I get through this without spending a ton of money?

The best way to get through a divorce without spending a lot of money is to cooperate with your spouse and your attorney. In a consultation, we review the best ways to limit the amount you have to spend in a divorce.

Can I stay in my home?

Assuming it is safe, it is best to talk to an attorney before changing your living arrangements. If you can afford the house, and it is your wish to stay, we will do our best to negotiate your ability to continue to live where you are.

Can I leave?

Generally, if it is a safe environment, you should contact an attorney before you decide to leave. If it is not a safe environment, you must decide what would be best for you and for your safety.

Do I need a separation agreement?

If you are thinking about leaving, consulting with an attorney is the best way to protect yourself in a divorce. An attorney can advise you about your particular situation and if a legal separation or separation agreement may be right for you. Before you leave, it is a good idea to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Generally speaking, a separation agreement [or Property Settlement Agreement] is a good idea.

How can I protect my assets?

One of the best ways to protect your assets is to have an agreement drafted. In the legal world, it is usually called a Property Settlement Agreement, Memorandum of Understanding or Settlement Agreement. For other ideas about your particular assets please contact us.

Will I have to go to court?

In order to get a divorce in Virginia, you must either come to an agreement or go to court. Many times attorneys can help reduce the likelihood that you will have to go to court. However, divorce, child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, debt division and property and asset division are all within the jurisdiction of the court, meaning that under the law, the court can make decisions for you, if you cannot come to an agreement on your own.

My spouse says s/he will leave me, and I won’t ever see my kids. Is this true?

Many times emotions run high in divorce. Unless there is a history of abuse, it is unlikely that you will not be able to see your children long term. In Virginia, even parents without custody are allowed time with their children called visitation. If you are having difficulty communicating, Jonathan Murdoch-Kitt can help.

What does visitation mean?

Visitation is the legal term for a child spending time with a parent. Sometimes other family members also want visitation like aunts and uncles or grandparents.

How often will visitation be?

Visitation is determined on a case by case basis and can take many factors into account such as: work schedules, day care, school, activities, and physical proximity between parents. Visitation can be worked out between the parents involved, but if they cannot agree, then the court will decide based on the listed factors.

What is child custody?

The term child custody refers to two different things. Legal custody refers to who will make the major decisions for your child, like where they will go to school, what elective (like braces) medical care they will receive, and what extracurricular activities your child may do. Both parents can have legal custody regardless of where the child lives. Physical custody refers to where the child lives predominantly. Parents often share physical custody but many kinds of physical custodial arrangements are possible.

How can I protect my rights regarding custody of my children?

The best way to protect your rights, is to make sure that you do not sign anything regarding your children until you have talked with a lawyer, in person. Once a court order (a legally enforceable document) has been entered, it is more difficult to make changes regarding custody. If you have any questions regarding custody, contact our office for a consultation.

What is alimony?

Alimony or spousal support is paid from one spouse to the other spouse after and sometimes during a divorce. The amount, frequency and duration are all variables. Alimony is determined by need and ability to pay, which is determined by an examination of both people’s finances.

Am I eligible for alimony/spousal support? Or is my spouse?

Jonathan Murdoch-Kitt can determine if you may be eligible for spousal support with some financial information provided by you in a consultation.

How long will I have to pay spousal support? Can it be modified?

The amount, frequency and duration are all negotiable and variable. Once put into place by the court, spousal support can be changed for several reasons: remarriage of the recipient, death of either party, or a material change in circumstances like a new job or the loss of a job. To determine if your spousal support can be changed, contact us for a consultation.

How is child support determined?

In Virginia, child support is determined by guidelines, which are Virginia law. They take many things into account like: how many children, are there any other children to whom support is due, daycare and health care premiums and special medical needs of the child or children. Though it is straightforward to find the chart of child support amounts, computing all of the other factors can take an expert. Child support can also be different from the guideline amount if the people involved can agree. This is why having a skilled negotiator on your side can make a difference in your life after divorce. If you have any questions about child support, please contact our office.

Will my spouse be required to pay child support or will I? When does it start?

Who pays child support and how much is determined by custody and financial ability to pay. Child support does not start until after the parties are separated. If you have questions, please contact our office for a consultation.

Does my spouse have to tell me how child support money is spent?

It is always a good idea to communicate for the benefit of the children. However, there is no requirement to tell the other parent, or the Court, how child support is being spent.

DISCLAIMER: Every case is unique. Facts are specific to the people involved. These FAQ present some general questions and answers that should not be interpreted as legal advice.Before making decisions that affect your legal rights, you should contact Jonathan Murdoch-Kitt at 804-321-5100 for a legal consultation.

Visit our Collaborative Law FAQ page for answers to questions specifically about collaborative law and collaborative divorce.

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