Your depositions -- formal statements, either oral or written, that carry the same importance as testimony in court -- play a different role in a Virginia divorce, depending on whether the divorce is contested or not. In contested divorces, spouses do not agree about the terms of the divorce, and in uncontested divorces they do. However, every divorce is different, and the length of time required for your divorce will vary based on the court’s workload.
In a contested divorce, the spouses cannot reach agreement on some terms of the divorce, so they rely on the court to decide those terms. For example, if you and your spouse cannot agree about how to split your property, the court will decide for you based on evidence you each submit. Since you cannot properly prepare your case without getting information from your spouse and his witnesses, Virginia rules provide a discovery period early in the divorce process. During discovery, you and your spouse exchange information, sometimes in the form of depositions. At an oral deposition, the witness is placed under oath and questioned while a stenographer or reporter records the conversation. Later, the stenographer transcribes the deposition and it may be accepted by the court as evidence. Written depositions typically include an exchange of written questions and answers, but they have the same legal effect as oral depositions.
Contested Divorce Process
The discovery phase normally does not begin until after the court considers any temporary orders requested in your case. For example, if you request a temporary child support order, the court hears and decides that request before discovery begins. This may be a few months into the divorce process. When discovery is complete, you or your spouse, or your attorneys, can request a court date for the trial on your disputed issues. Depending on how busy the court is, your trial date could be six to eight months after your discovery phase is complete. Even after your trial is complete, your divorce may not be final immediately, since the judge may need time to review testimony and evidence before issuing a written decision and decree.
Uncontested Divorce Depositions
Divorce is typically quicker when you and your spouse can reach agreement on the terms of divorce. Since July 1, 2012, Virginia spouses have the option to finalize an uncontested divorce with a deposition instead of appearing in court. Though some courts allowed divorce by deposition before, the 2012 law standardized the process across Virginia. This type of deposition recaps the facts of your case in written form. You must submit your deposition along with a deposition of a third-party witness to the court instead of appearing before a judge for a final hearing. A law clerk then reviews the depositions and forwards your case to a judge for approval.
After your uncontested divorce case is submitted to a judge, he reviews the entire case to determine whether Virginia’s legal requirements have been met. Frequently, this review process takes two or three weeks. Once the judge is satisfied that you meet Virginia’s standards, he issues a divorce decree and will likely incorporate into this decree the written agreements you and your spouse made. Whether you file a contested or uncontested case, your divorce is not final until the judge issues the decree.