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Virginia Divorce Timeline

By June 10, 2023June 12th, 2023Divorce

Divorce doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. Still, for most divorces, the timeline of the proceedings and the divorce process can be largely out of your control. Enduring a divorce can be a challenging and time-consuming experience. However, if both parties can reach an agreement on the terms of separation and avoid litigation, the process can be relatively swift. On the contrary, if disagreements persist, the number of required steps increases. Even in cases where a no-fault settlement is pursued, it is important to invest time in ensuring that the terms are executed in a favorable manner. One mistake we sometimes see clients make is not having the patience to persist long enough to get a favorable settlement.

The fact is, most divorces, even those that are uncontested, require a keen eye and expert analysis so that no stone is left unturned. Consider your assets (like houses, retirement accounts, and valuables), your children, and your own potential spousal support. Rushing through a divorce is not in your best interest.

3 Types of Divorce

Default Divorce

In a default proceeding, if the respondent (the spouse being served) fails to respond within the designated time frame outlined, the Court clerk will officially record the respondent’s default. As a result, the dissolution proceeding will proceed without the participation of that party. In Virginia, a respondent has 21 days to reply.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested proceeding, when both parties reach a mutual agreement on all aspects related to the dissolution of their marital estate, they may proceed with a written agreement known as a marital settlement agreement. This agreement covers crucial matters such as property and debt division, as well as child custody and support arrangements. It is essential to note that this agreement is a legally binding contract and must be filed with the Court for enforcement.

Contested Divorce

In a situation where there is disagreement, a response is submitted in response to the dissolution petition. Despite efforts to reach a resolution, the parties are unable to resolve the issues, leading to a trial. During this trial, the Court makes decisions on all the matters required for the dissolution to take place.

Divorce Timeline in an Uncontested Divorce

Filing for divorce

After the divorce is officially submitted to the Court, arrangements will be made to fulfill the legal requirement of notifying the second party about the proceeding. The second party (your spouse) will waive any objections as to the proceeding.

Signing Affidavit

The divorce initiator, the spouse, and witnesses, need to be present when signing an affidavit. An affidavit is a sworn statement.

Submitting Divorce Decree to the Court

Before the divorce is finalized, the proposed divorce decree and affidavits will be presented to the court and to a judge. A judge is not required to accept the decree.

Finalizing Divorce

If the judge agrees that the decree is within the bounds of the law then the divorce will be signed and the marriage would be officially dissolved.

Divorce Timeline in a Contested Divorce

Filing Complaint

As in an uncontested divorce, the first step is to file a complaint. When filing the complaint, it is necessary to outline the reasons for the divorce, and if it is a no-fault divorce, it is important to verify that the required period of separation has been fulfilled.

Spouse Answers

The spouse has 21 days to answer. They can present a counterclaim.

Temporary Order Hearing

Under Virginia law, either party has the option to submit a motion for “pendente lite” relief, which offers temporary assistance while progressing towards a formal divorce. Essentially, this grants you legal separation status. Pendente lite relief covers several aspects, including:

  • Determination of child custody and visitation rights
  • Child or spousal support arrangements
  • Exclusive occupancy of the marital residence
  • Contributions towards shared debts
  • Injunctions to prevent harassment or the squandering of shared assets

Typically, any temporary relief ordered by the court remains in effect until the final divorce trial, which occurs one year from the date of separation.


During discovery the fact finding occurs. This can be accomplished through different methods. During the discovery stage of a contested divorce, both you and your spouse will engage in the exchange of information, often through depositions. These depositions involve providing testimony under oath and can be considered by the court as evidence. The purpose of this evidence is to assist the court in making decisions regarding the terms of the separation.


Throughout the trial, each attorney will deliver an opening statement to present their desired interpretation of the final outcome. Following that, the lawyers will proceed to present evidence in support of their respective requested outcomes. In addition to submitting relevant documents, they may call upon witnesses.

Divorce Order

This is potentially the last step in the divorce process. The timeframe for when the judge makes the final order can vary, as the judge may render a decision on the day of the trial, or it could extend over a period of weeks or even months before a comprehensive verdict is issued. 

Unsure about what lies ahead?

Slovensky Law has years of experience practicing family law in Roanoke, Salem, and the surrounding areas. Extensive experience and sharp eye has helped our firm deliver results and give countless individuals a path forward. No two cases are alike. Everyone deserves a tailored approach and a dedicated collaborator to make sure their divorce process is as smooth as possible. If you’re unsure of what your divorce might look like, give our team a call.

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