How Long Does a Divorce Take in Virginia?

A man thinks about the duration of his divorce case

Last Updated on November 2023

In Virginia, a divorce can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more, depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested and the complexity of the issues involved, such as child custody, property division, and alimony.

Different factors impact the duration of a divorce proceeding. For example, the required separation term greatly affects the overall Virginia divorce waiting period. Some other important factors are described below in detail.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Virginia

The woman realized that her divorce through a lawyer would be very long
Opting for an uncontested divorce in Virginia can be advantageous, as it often involves a faster and more cost-effective process, provided both parties can agree on key issues without significant conflict.

An uncontested, no-fault divorce is the cheapest and the quickest type of divorce in Virginia, which usually takes from 4 to 8 weeks to finalize. However, Virginia’s uncontested divorce timeline can be longer depending on whether you manage the paperwork yourself or delegate this task to an online service or a lawyer.

The fastest method to prepare all the needed forms is to order them from a trusted website. Thus, you can receive a whole package of case-specific documents within several business days, sign them, and immediately submit them to the circuit court.

However, even if you use this method to speed up your divorce, there are things you can’t control. For instance, you can do nothing with the court’s caseload and will have to wait longer if a court has many cases to resolve. Still, most uncontested cases are finalized several times quicker than contested ones, especially if spouses submit to the court a completed settlement agreement with all the terms of splitting specified.

How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce?

Every couple starting a no-fault divorce in Virginia must complete a separation period, which ranges from 6 months to 1 year. If a couple applies for a divorce in Virginia with a child, they have to live separately for at least 1 year. This period is reduced to 6 months for spouses that don’t have minor kids and have a separation agreement.

In fault-based divorces, a petitioner can start the divorce process immediately, without any separation period. However, it is not granted that they will be able to prove the fault ground. For example, if a petitioner applies for divorce because of adultery and can provide the judge with indisputable evidence, there is no specific time limits the court will pay attention to. On the other hand, if a person wants to start a divorce based on abandonment, the fact of desertion must have happened at least a year before filing. If abandonment started, for example, half a year ago, it is not a valid fault ground, and the divorce may not be granted till the 1-year mark of abandonment passes.

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Virginia?

The woman realized that her divorce through a lawyer would be very long
Hiring a divorce lawyer in Virginia can incur expenses, and costs may vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, legal fees, and the lawyer’s hourly rates.

A contested divorce in Virginia can last for over a year. The duration depends on:

  • the number of disputed issues,
  • the court’s schedule,
  • the readiness of the parties to negotiate,
  • the need for expert evaluations or testimony.

Generally, a contested divorce involves various stages specific to contested cases, all contributing to the prolonged marriage termination process:

  • participating in the discovery and exchanging financial information,
  • attending settlement negotiations,
  • taking part in pre-trial conferences and hearings, etc.

The court may also encourage mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods to help partners agree on divorce terms. Experts can help spouses resolve disputes concerning asset and debt division, child custody and support, and alimony. If an agreement is reached during mediation or negotiations, the divorce will take less time.

However, if parties are unwilling to compromise and cannot agree, the case may require multiple court appearances and hearings. The more disagreements spouses have, the more time and money they will likely spend on their divorce. Therefore, it is worth doing all possible to settle on an agreement.

How Long After Being Served Divorce Papers Do You Have to Respond?

Once divorce papers are filed by a petitioner and served to the other party, a respondent has 21 days to respond to them by completing an “Answer.”  This document addresses the allegations in the divorce complaint, and a respondent may either agree to them or disagree and file a counterclaim. In the second case, it will negatively influence the divorce duration.

How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce in Virginia?

Final court decision in a divorce case
The speed of finalizing a divorce in Virginia depends on factors such as case complexity, court schedules, and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

After filing for divorce, it takes several weeks or months to end a marriage officially. It’s impossible to determine the exact time because it varies depending on the details of the divorce case. Uncontested, no-fault cases may last 1-2 months from start to finish, given that spouses have prepared a settlement agreement in advance and just need the judge to approve it. A contested divorce may last over a year if there are many controversial points to deal with.

Besides, a contested litigation involving minor children will require even more time to finalize. The court may oblige parents to participate in educational classes and pass exams, which altogether take additional time.

Understanding how time-consuming and stressful a contested divorce is, some spouses seek expert help to negotiate a compromise and eventually end up with an uncontested marriage dissolution.

How Long Does It Take for a Judge to Sign a Divorce Decree?

Typically, the judge reviews the case and signs the divorce decree within a few weeks to a few months after the necessary legal process has passed, which includes:

  • the submission of required documents,
  • serving the other party,
  • waiting for the response,
  • performing discovery,
  • completing any required waiting period.

After that, a divorce decree should be filed with the court clerk’s office, marking the end of the divorce process. The clerk will enter the decree into the court records and provide certified copies to the parties involved or their attorneys.

What Makes Getting a Virginia Divorce Take Longer?

Dividing a house during a divorce increases its length
Dividing assets in a Virginia divorce is a necessary legal process to fairly distribute marital property between spouses, but the emotional and financial implications can vary based on individual circumstances.

Many divorcing couples share the same complaint: “Why is divorce taking so long?”. Some divorces take a lot of time and cause much frustration. However, the good news is that spouses have partial control over how long their divorce will carry on.

  • The first thing that matters is the type of divorce. Uncontested divorces, where both spouses agree on all key issues, tend to be more streamlined. On the other hand, contested cases, with many disputes to be resolved, can take longer due to negotiation, mediation, or court proceedings.
  • Besides, the method of preparing all required legal forms is also important. People often hire lawyers to help with the paperwork, but there is another way to prepare the documents. You can reach out to a trusted online divorce service and have your papers generated automatically in accordance with the info provided. This option is popular because it is fast, cheap, and secure.

If you also seek a quick divorce in Virginia online, we’ll be glad to help you. Just answer the questions about your uncontested, no-fault divorce, wait till the system fills out your papers, download and signs them, and submit court-specific documents to the local court. The process is quick and intuitive. You will get a complete package of divorce forms at a moderate fee.