Legalese is not the same as Latin. If you want to spot some legalese, dig out your paperwork from your last automobile purchase; it is no doubt brimming with “parties of the first part” and such. Latin is often a shorthand in the law, as with an Ore Tenus hearing. It sounds like a cheer shouted at Wimbledon, but it isn’t.

Ore Tenus Anyone?

The Latin phrase Ore Tenus means “by mouth.” It refers to oral arguments heard in court, as with an uncontested Virginia divorce. The uncontested divorce signals the Virginia judge and court that proceedings can move swiftly, with only oral arguments from both parties.

That is not to say an Ore Tenus hearing is a casual gabfest. The judge must hear evidence that the divorce really is uncontested, you and your spouse are in complete agreement, and that nobody has been coerced into something against their will.

Does an Ore Tenus Hearing Mean Avoiding Paperwork?

The suggestion that an Ore Tenus hearing is just a bunch of folks standing around talking may give you the impression that no paperwork is involved. This is Virginia and the legal system! Of course there’s paperwork involved!

Take a look at all the 20-pound copy paper needed by Fairfax County, for example:

  1. The original proposed Final Decree of Divorce
  2. The name change order to resume a maiden name, if applicable — This is a two-birds/one-stone timesaver offered by the courts
  3. A copy of any Property Settlement Agreement, if applicable, with the original to be shown in court at the Ore Tenus hearing
  4. A private addendum containing the parties’ Social Security numbers
  5. The VS-4 form, completed legibly in black ink — you just know there’s a story behind them sticking “legibly” in the instructions for the State Statistical Form
  6. A Waiver of Notice/Proof of Service

Keep in mind, too, you also have to start this paperwork avalanche by completing a “Request for Ore Tenus Hearing.” So that’s as many as seven different things to keep straight just to ask for a hearing that only involves oral arguments.

Answer Me This

Uncontested divorces in Virginia are usually handled by affidavit, meaning no court appearance is needed. An Ore Tenus hearing can be requested by either party so that a judge hears the evidence, ensures all the Code of Virginia divorce statutes are upheld, and the divorce can be granted. Some jurisdictions in Virginia require an Ore Tenus hearing.

The hearing includes questions asked by the judge:

  1. What is your full legal name and current address?
  2. To whom are you married?
  3. When and where were you two married?
  4. Are both of you over 18 years of age?
  5. When you filed for divorce and for the six months preceding the filing, were both of you legal residents of Virginia, and domiciled in Virginia? (remember, residency and domiciliary are not the same) 
  6. Have either you or your spouse been held in a jail, prison, or mental health facility at any time from the date of filing for divorce?
  7. Are both of you mentally sound and competent to understand these proceedings?
  8. If either of you have been a member of the U.S. armed forces, was the serving member stationed or billeted in Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce?
  9. Did the service member complete an answer to, or a waiver of, the rights enumerated in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?
  10. Have the two of you separated from each other, and if so, on what date?
  11. On the date you separated from one another, did at least one of you intend for that separation to be permanent (lead to divorce)?
  12. If your initial separation was not with the intent of permanent separation, on what date did a change in that intention become known?
  13. From that initial date of separation, have you two lived separate and apart, without cohabitation, without interruption, and continuously?
  14. Have you any children from this marriage, either born or adopted? Names and ages, please, if you have.
  15. At this time, do you both affirm that the wife is not pregnant from this marriage?
  16. Do either of you request restoration of a former (maiden) name? And what is that name? (that’s the timesaver we mentioned above)
  17. Do you have a written, signed, Property Settlement Agreement? (the court can affirm, ratify, and include the Agreement in the final divorce decree, another timesaver)
  18. Do both of you want this court to grant the divorce, based on the (no-fault) grounds of living separate and apart for six months (if you have no children) or in excess of a year (if you have children)?

Sure, it’s a grilling, but an Ore Tenus hearing can be an expeditious way to wrap up a divorce with the help of your family law attorney. Though pro se divorce is theoretically possible, you have already seen the paperwork nightmare involved in getting a hearing for oral arguments. Don’t go it alone — get a lawyer!

The Firm For Men is committed to providing the very best legal service to Virginia’s men. Contact us today or telephone us at (757) 383-9184 to get all your knottiest — or easiest — legal questions answered.