Albert Einstein is famously credited with the quotation, “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours.”1 A divorce can feel like that, too; sometimes the process skips along and you see a quick end. Other times, well, other times you feel like the world will end before your divorce is final.

How Long is the Divorce Process?

Like any good Virginian, we’ll answer by saying, “That depends.” On what? On how long you have lived in Virginia, and of course, on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. On whether your soon-to-be ex-wife puts up a lot of obstacles to a smooth process. The law, though, sets a few immovable dates:

“Where either party has been guilty of cruelty, caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willfully deserted or abandoned the other, such divorce may be decreed to the innocent party after a period of one year from the date of such act; or

On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. In any case where the parties have entered into a separation agreement and there are no minor children…a divorce may be decreed on application if and when the husband and wife have lived separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months.”

(Assuming at some point you will need to emphatically and dramatically pound a table and use your Big Boy voice, let folks know you are referring to the Code of Virginia, Title 20, Chapter 6, Section 20-91, subsections 6 and 9.)

The actual process (meeting with your lawyer, having your lawyer file papers, going before a judge) could be swift, but the preliminary requirements will take either a year or six months (at least), depending on what the two of you have been up to while married. You also must be a resident of Virginia for at least six months.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

If you and your wife are fighting tooth, nail, claw, and fang over every aspect of your divorce, you have a contested divorce that could take a lot of time. If you and your wife can agree on the basic terms of the divorce, you can proceed with an uncontested divorce.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process can cut out some steps of a divorce. The ADR can include:

  • Experts
  • Negotiations
  • A Neutral Evaluation

Virginia’s judicial system is rightly proud of providing so many avenues, other than the courts, for dealing with many issues (not just divorce) through mediation and discussion. You and your spouse may be able to use that method to speed up the process.

If you become embroiled in a contested divorce, you will likely go through all these steps:

  • Bill of Complaint
  • Service of Process
  • Defendant’s answer and cross-bill
  • Pendente lite hearing (possibly)
  • Discovery—Interrogatories, requests for production of documents; depositions; subpoenas—this could take months and months
  • Motions
  • Trial (some six to eight months after a request for a trial date is filed)
  • Commissioner in Chancery
  • Final Hearing

Lawyers really are not going through all these steps simply to run up their fees; these steps are legally required.

What Determines How Long a Divorce Takes?

We all know the rule of thumb about curing a Virginia-style ham: the ham should be cured for seven days per inch of cushion depth, or one and a half days per pound of ham. A rough parallel can be made to your divorce: the greater the depth of the issues separating you and your wife, the longer you will need the services of attorneys and the courts. The more weight on your plate, the more days and dollars of legal counsel you will eat up.

Issues that bog down the process (but which can be moved right along with mediation and a little give-and-take between you and your wife) include:

  • Equitable Distribution of marital property
  • Custody and/or visitation
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Temporary use of the marital home

Go into the process with legal issues the equivalent of an entire Smithfield ham and you could be looking at more than 18 months. Meet with your lawyer knowing you have the legal equivalent of a ham biscuit on your plate and you could be done in six months. In either case, The Firm for Men stands ready to help you. Call our Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184 and schedule a consultation with one of our ham-loving attorneys today.


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