Filing for Divorce in Virginia: Does It Matter Who Files First?


You’ve reached a point in your marriage where reconciliation seems impossible, and now you’re contemplating whether filing for divorce first in Virginia holds any advantages. Generally, there are no significant benefits to being the first to file for divorce, unless certain circumstances like immigration status come into play. However, the planning process and financial preparedness could potentially give you an edge over your spouse.

Eventually, one of you will need to take the bold step and initiate the divorce process after failed attempts at reconciliation. While being the first to file doesn’t guarantee favoritism, if the case proceeds to trial, the divorce court will hear your evidence before the defendant’s.

It’s advisable to have a divorce attorney by your side, especially if custody or financial issues are involved. This article explores whether filing for divorce first in Virginia is advantageous and discusses the benefits it offers during litigation.

Helps Set the Pace

By initiating the divorce process first, you gain some control over the timing and settlement of the litigation. In most cases, the defendant may be caught off guard, unaware that you’ve decided on divorce. This lack of preparation time can work in your favor.

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Starting the process with a proposed separation and property settlement agreement clearly expresses your desire for an amicable and swift resolution. It also signals that you’re open to negotiation but prefer the involvement of the legal system. With a cooperative spouse, trial can be avoided as both parties can settle the matter amicably with the help of competent divorce lawyers.

An Extra Chance to Present Your Case

If disputes over finances, assets, or child custody arise and the litigation proceeds to trial, being the first to present your case can be advantageous. Presenting your evidence before the respondent provides an opportunity for you to make an impact on the judge and argue against the respondent’s case. It also allows you to weaken the effectiveness of the respondent’s witnesses.

However, presenting a strong case that works in your favor requires prior consultation with a family attorney. They can educate you on your rights, available options, and provide guidance on how to handle custody and support issues effectively.

Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Attorney Before Filing

During divorce proceedings, some spouses may try to shift blame or hide assets. To protect yourself from losing important properties or being taken advantage of in court, it’s crucial to have a trusted attorney who can help you take proactive steps when filing for divorce. Consider the following ways in which attorneys can assist you:

Preserve Fault

The basis of your divorce, as stated in the complaint, can greatly influence the outcome. False claims, such as abandonment or adultery, can harm your chances of retaining assets or gaining custody. An attorney will conduct thorough research and investigation to refute any false claims made by your spouse during the divorce process, ensuring your interests are protected.

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Information Gathering

Collecting sensitive information like bank statements, assets, debts, or household income can be challenging. Attorneys, with their knowledge and experience, can efficiently gather this information to support your case.

Prevent Wealth Waste

If your spouse becomes aware that you’re planning to file for divorce, they may attempt to hide or dispose of valuable assets without your knowledge. To prevent this, it’s crucial to work with a reputable and skilled family attorney who will protect your rights and safeguard your rightful share of marital assets.

Common Divorce Misconceptions in Virginia

The divorce process can be emotionally draining and overwhelming, but it’s important to dispel certain misconceptions regarding divorce proceedings in Virginia. Understanding these misconceptions will help alleviate unnecessary worries:

Divorce Finalization Takes Time

If you and your spouse are in agreement and file an uncontested divorce, the process can be finalized within a few weeks. The separation period begins when one of you moves out of the home, although Virginia law does allow for separation within the same home if the parties are living separate lives. Additionally, one of you must have resided in Virginia for at least six months from the start of the separation.

Home Ownership Rights

During the separation period, both spouses retain the right to the home, as separation does not abolish homeownership rights. However, issues regarding home ownership are typically addressed in the separation and property settlement agreement. If disputes arise over who keeps the home or whether it should be sold, a judge will make the determination based on the evidence presented by both parties. Similarly, decisions regarding the marital home’s impact on children can be complex and require careful consideration with the guidance of your attorney.

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We Can Share the Lawyer

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not possible for both parties to share the same lawyer to reduce costs. Each party requires individual representation to protect their rights and interests and to prevent conflicts of interest.

We Must Go to Court to Finalize the Divorce

Not all divorce cases require a court hearing. If both parties are willing to cooperate and agree to the division of properties, debts, and other aspects of the divorce amicably, lawyers can guide you through the process and help finalize the divorce without resorting to trial. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, a trial may be necessary.

Need a Competent Divorce Attorney in Virginia?

If you’re searching for a divorce attorney in Virginia, look no further than the Law Office of Michael Ephraim. Our dedicated team is committed to providing amicable divorce processes, ensuring swift resolutions. Contact us today for a smooth and uncontested divorce experience.

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