Virginia State Laws on Divorce Settlements

By Cindy Chung

The divorce process in Virginia allows spouses to negotiate their own divorce settlement and submit it for court approval. If a couple chooses to write their own settlement agreement, they can likely avoid a divorce trial in front of a Virginia circuit court. However, before the court may approve the settlement and finalize the divorce, the court must confirm that the settlement meets the state law requirements for a valid agreement.

Settlement Process

Spouses have the right to negotiate their own divorce through a settlement agreement, but they are not required to do so. Even so, a Virginia circuit court may refer the spouses to mediation services if the court believes the spouses can avoided a prolonged, contested trial. When chosen, mediation allows the spouses to negotiate a settlement regarding property, spousal support and other issues with the help of a neutral third party. However, state law does not require a settlement before spouses may divorce; if necessary, the spouses can ask a circuit court to decide all of the issues in their case.

Children and Divorce Settlement

In general, spouses may negotiate the terms of their divorce settlement. However, Virginia law often imposes additional requirements when the settlement includes legal issues related to parenting a children from the marriage. For example, parents may agree on an amount for child support, but the court must consider Virginia's child support guidelines and parents' circumstances to decide whether the specified amount is appropriate. In addition, the court must follow the custody standards set by Virginia law. If the court doesn't believe the parents' custody and visitation agreement reflects the children's best interests, the court might not accept those terms.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Settlement Requirements

In Virginia, a divorce settlement must meet several requirements to become legally binding. In general, the spouses must have a written document explaining the terms of their agreement. The spouses must both sign the document under oath and have their signatures witnessed by a notary. Although unwritten promises may be more difficult to enforce than written terms, Virginia divorce laws do allow for an oral agreement if a spouse can provide proof accepted by the court. In addition, spouses may agree to their divorce settlement while in court proceedings, and the court transcript may serve as a record of their settlement without requiring a separate document.

Settlement Agreement and Divorce Decree

Virginia state laws allow the circuit courts to accept settlement agreements signed by spouses in divorce cases. The court may "affirm, ratify and incorporate by reference" the spouses' agreement in the divorce decree, the court order which formally ends the couple's marriage. Once affirmed, ratified and incorporated, the divorce settlement becomes a part of the divorce decree and either spouse may ask for court enforcement of the terms. For example, a spouse may need the circuit court to help with enforcement if the other spouse ignores or breaks the terms agreed on in the divorce settlement.

Reconciliation After Settlement

Under Virginia law, if spouses reconcile after they sign a property settlement agreement, the reconciliation will abrogate — set aside — the terms of their agreement. However, a couple can avoid this result by including a term in their agreement to explain the potential consequences of reconciliation. In particular, the spouses might agree that reconciliation after a divorce settlement will not change each spouse's rights unless they sign a new written agreement.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Is a Stipulated Divorce in Wisconsin?

References

Resources

Related articles

Uncontested Divorce in Illinois

While cooperating and communicating with your spouse during divorce proceedings may be challenging, it can allow you to negotiate a better divorce settlement and avoid the time and costs associated with going to court. Illinois provides for a simplified divorce procedure in certain situations. Contested cases can become uncontested if the couple reaches agreement on a divorce settlement. Alternative dispute resolution is available to help couples talk through their issues and reach an agreement.

What Happens at a Mandatory Divorce Settlement Conference in California?

In California, judges can order mandatory divorce settlement conferences. These conferences are held between the parties and a court-appointed mediator or judge, and all parties and their attorneys must attend. The settlement conference gives the parties a final opportunity to settle before going to trial and is typically scheduled 30 days before trial. Judges are especially likely to order these conferences when child custody is in dispute because they allow parents to come to an agreement they can both tolerate.

How to Become Legally Separated From a Spouse

In most states, a legal separation means a couple is bound by a court order outlining the terms of their separation. The separation agreement will generally include issues of child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and division of marital property and assets. Each state establishes its own laws and procedures regarding legal separation. Although couples in all states can generally prepare legally binding agreements on divorce issues, not all states recognize legal separation as a distinct marital status.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What to Expect at ERC for an Arizona Divorce

In Arizona, many couples avoid the cost and uncertainty of going to trial to obtain a divorce by attending an Early ...

Contested Divorce Procedures

The exact procedures of divorce vary between states, but divorce can be a fairly simple process if you have an ...

Easy Ways to Change the Custody of Parents in Wisconsin

If parents end their relationship, they must often continue to interact as the co-parents of their children. Although ...

Signing Over Marital Rights in PA

Pennsylvania state laws protect spouses by establishing marital rights and obligations. However, a husband or wife may ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED