Do-it-yourself legal representation has been trending in the Commonwealth of Virginia recently due to the high cost of hiring attorneys and the influx of online legal resources.
However, most people opting for the DIY route have limited legal knowledge or skills related to legal proceedings, documentation, and other aspects of handling a case. Therefore, they’re likely to make irreversible, costly mistakes when representing themselves in court, even in simple cases like uncontested divorces.
Today, many individuals looking to end their marriage decide to go through the legal process without hiring an attorney. Most of these individuals don’t even know how to prepare a proper marital settlement agreement that memorializes asset divisions, debts (if any), child support, post-divorce spouse support, and other matters. Hence, the most critical step before filing for a divorce is to get this document right.
Unfortunately, even with a signed agreement, DIY divorce in Virginia isn’t as quick or straightforward as many people might think. You still need to learn and understand the legal proceedings, draft and file the proper divorce pleadings (which we call “case forms”), and take care of other aspects of the case.
In this post, we’ll share a quick guide to do-it-yourself legal representation for divorce and dissolution in Virginia.
DIY Divorce or Dissolution Explained
A do-it-yourself divorce or marriage dissolution is the process of preparing a proper marital settlement agreement and then filing divorce pleadings and other essential documentation with a court to obtain a final order of divorce. In other words, you would be responsible for formally completing the mandatory paperwork and ending the marriage without hiring a lawyer to divide your assets and make arrangements for children.
Although Virginia has set statutory waiting periods for filing for a divorce, you can still prepare a DIY Marital Settlement Agreement immediately and implement its provisions until you reach the required statutory waiting period to obtain a final order of divorce.
You can also start preparing the necessary divorce pleadings about two weeks before you are eligible to file for a divorce. Your legal case coach can review those with you and explain your next steps for getting them filed once you’ve met the required statutory waiting period. After you file the required divorce paperwork, it generally takes about 30 days(*) to obtain entry of your final order of divorce.
Virginia does not have any fill-in-the-blank forms that you can just fill out to complete a divorce in the Circuit Courts. Instead, they require properly drafted legal pleadings.
My Legal Case Coach offers an easy-to-use set of model court pleadings with step-by-step instructions to make the process run smoothly, from start to finish. You also get one (1) free hour of virtual coaching from a licensed Virginia attorney to help you with your document preparation and filing.
(*)The 30-day timeline depends on the complexity of your Marital Settlement Agreement and whether you require some additional court orders, such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, to divide (tax-free) any retirement accounts which cannot be completed until after entry of your final order of divorce.
How to Qualify for a DIY Divorce in Virginia
To initiate a DIY divorce process, an individual needs to learn about divorce proceedings and eligibility requirements. More importantly, to be uncontested, they must have a Marital Settlement signed by both spouses showing they have mutually agreed to the terms of asset division, child custody and visitation (if there are minor children involved), support, and other aspects of the dissolution.
The separation date on the Marital Settlement Agreement will be used to determine eligibility for filing the divorce paperwork and the timeline for the court proceedings:
- If you have no minor children, you can file 6 months and 1 day after your date of separation as long as you have a signed Marital Settlement Agreement.
- If you have minor children, you can file 1 year and 1 day after your date of separation as long as you have a signed Marital Settlement Agreement.
Important Tip: Your divorce will be deemed “contested” by the court if you don’t have a signed Marital Settlement Agreement, whether you have children or not. In other words, you won’t be able to obtain a divorce without scheduling proper court hearings, serving one another with discovery requests, and other important processes.
Therefore, the first step in handling a DIY divorce is to prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement and have it signed by your spouse following a mutual agreement on divisions and responsibilities.
Information Required to File DIY Divorce Papers
The following is an extensive list of information you’ll need to prepare your DIY Marital Settlement Agreement and subsequent divorce pleadings for filing with the Court. Please remember that Virginia’s Circuit Courts do not prepare the pleadings for you or carry fill-in-the-blank forms to use when seeking a divorce. Therefore you have to do due diligence and learn about every piece of information necessary for a seamless process:
- Full legal names
- The primary residence of both spouses before and after separation (city, state, & country)
- Children (including pregnancy)
- Wedding and separation date
- Place of marriage (city, state, & country)
- Name of witnesses willing to sign an affidavit
- Assets type and quantity
- Property types, location, and value
Employment Information (For Child Support, Debt Settlement, & Post-Divorce Maintenance)
- Employment status and information (including professional licenses)
- Employer name, address, and contact
- Driver’s license information
- Combined healthcare plans (if any)
Child Support Information (For Couples With Minor Children)
- Court orders for child support/custody (if any)
- Child support amount for each parent with payment frequency
- Pending support payments
- Children’s health coverage provider, address, policy number, and policy type
Need Professional Guidance While Preparing Your DIY Marital Settlement Agreement or Filing Your DIY Divorce Papers? My Legal Case Coach Can Help
My Legal Case Coach (MLCC) is here to fill in the gap left by the Courts in Virginia to help ensure a smooth marriage dissolution. We provide comprehensive, easy-to-use Virginia-specific instructions and templatized legal case forms designed to help individuals draft their own Marital Settlement Agreement and, subsequently, complete their divorce with their local Virginia Circuit Court.
Moreover, because MLCC wants you to be successful, we provide you one (1) free hour of virtual coaching with a licensed Virginia family law attorney to ensure your drafts are prepared properly and answer any questions.
If you need more help than the free 1-hour that comes with your purchased forms packet, MLCC also offers additional coaching sessions in 1-hour, 3-hour, 5-hour, or 10-hour blocks of time, with affordable hourly rates.
So, if you’re looking to save money by representing yourself but still want a legal professional in your corner, consider MLCC to get legal coaching from a licensed Virginia attorney with a combined 20+ years experience in family law and divorce matters. We will ensure your DIY efforts move forward smoothly from beginning to end.
For more information related to our packets and coaching services, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation so we can discuss your specific needs and circumstances.