Virginia divorces are seldom easy. But, as you likely know, they are exceedingly common. This means that we can look to mistakes that others have made and endeavor to do better ourselves to get better outcomes.
Understand the grounds for divorce
First, understand the grounds for divorce. Our state offers both fault divorce and no-fault divorce. This is important because a fault-based divorce can impact your divorce. If you commit adultery, desertion, etc., you could receive a less favorable divorce outcome. Similarly, if one of the bases of a fault-based divorce were done against you, you can use the fault system to get a better outcome in the divorce.
Second, try to negotiate a separation agreement. These agreements resolve the divorce issues that are normally handled by the judge. Having an agreement though puts the power in your hands to avoid litigation and save you time and money.
Do not hide assets or debts
Another common mistake is hiding assets and debts. One of the most important tasks the family law judge undertakes is to identify and value all of the marital assets and debts. This establishes the marital estate and is the basis for what is split, like bank, retirement and brokerage accounts, real estate, loans, etc.
You also have a legal obligation to disclose all of your assets and debts to the court. This is done through a financial affidavit, and lying on this form has penalties. These include possible criminal charges for perjury in extreme cases, but it could also lead to an order mandating that you have to pay for your spouse’s attorney fees or losing your share of the asset, among other potential penalties.
Do not forget about taxes
Before you agree to anything, remember there are tax consequences to just about any decision. Consult with a tax professional to understand the potential tax liabilities.
Try to negotiate a parenting plan
The goal should be to avoid as much litigation as possible to avoid the fees associated with it. This includes negotiating a parenting plan. Plus, it puts the power in the hands of the parents, not a randomly assigned judge. The key is to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities upfront.