A contested divorce can be agonizing and excruciating. Contested divorces are a result of vicious conflict and dispute between the couples and usually one or more of the five grounds of a fault-based divorce will be involved in the ending of the marriage. The process of getting a contested divorce is more often than not exhausting and strife with extreme stress.
The five grounds are:
- Willful desertion
- Criminal conviction with a sentence exceeding a certain period of time
It may be noted that each of the grounds mentioned herein is defendable and must be proven beyond doubt in court. The person filing the complaint will be the Plaintiff, and the person accused or defending will be the Defendant.
One of the most common causes of a fault-based divorce in Virginia is adultery. Virginia Legislation demands ‘clear and convincing’ evidence as proof due to the fact that adultery is considered a felony (Class 4 misdemeanor). Also, adultery is the only grounds for which alimony can be waived legally.
Proving adultery can be financially demanding as it will involve finding circumstantial evidence needed to corroborate the claim, along with attorney services and numerous court hearings. The claim for alimony will be greatly affected if adultery is proven. In such cases, the innocent can have their responsibility to alimony waived completely. Division of property will be affected only if the guilty spouse had spent or used the marital property in conducting the affair. In such cases, a greater portion of the property may be distributed to the Plaintiff.
It is willful desertion or abandonment according to the laws of Virginia when one spouse leaves the other for a minimum period of one continuous year while bearing ‘willful and malicious’ intent. To prove abandonment, numerous factors must be taken into account. For example, a wife leaving the abusive husband and her children out of fear and desperation is not considered abandonment. If reconciliation turned out to be unfeasible, desertion can be grounds for a fault divorce. Division of property will be affected if the abandoning spouse is found guilty of using marital assets to fund their lifestyle while away. In such cases, a greater portion of the property is given to the Plaintiff.
In some cases in Virginia, marriage can become a burden affecting the life and welfare of either spouse. In such cases, cruelty can be grounds for a fault-based divorce. Virginia strictly defines cruelty as “any form of inflicted bodily harm that may endanger life, limb or health.”Even a single injury may be severe enough to warrant a divorce and it is not necessary to further harm to prove abuse as regular behavior. Cruelty also covers psychological harm such as humiliation, coercive and abusive language, and malicious annoyances, though it is not directly defined in the section. Proof of the affliction, whether physical or psychological, must be presented in court for a divorce to be decreed.
Finally, a divorce can be filed if one of the spouses has been charged with a criminal conviction with a minimum of one-year incarceration. Imprisonment can be a source of numerous complications, along with incurring financial liabilities such as hiring a Guardian ad Litem, costs of delivering documentation, etc. In such cases, the spouse out of prison must prove their partner’s incarceration.
The approximate cost of a contested divorce will be in the range of $12,000 to $28,000. Costs will depend on which of the five grounds the divorce is being filed on and the amount of evidence required. Remember that the costs may go up if children are involved in the divorce.
If you are planning to divorce, it is necessary that you have an experienced attorney to help you out.
Mr. Sris has helped numerous clients with contested divorces in Virginia.