Fairfax contested divorce lawyer

If you’re unable to resolve your differences with your former partner, a contested divorce might be your only option.

Unlike mediation or collaborative divorce, contested divorces are taken to court, where a judge considers both sides and decides on issues such as child custody and parenting time, child and spousal support, property and debt division, and attorney’s fees.

Spouses have no input in the final terms of their divorce, and the quality of legal representation you have can be a significant factor in achieving the outcome you desire.

contested divorce lawyer

At Select Law Partners PLLC, we understand how overwhelming a contested divorce can be. That’s why our compassionate Fairfax divorce lawyers provide zealous advocacy and comprehensive legal services through all stages of the divorce process.

Our goal is not just to represent you in court — we want to help you explore all possible avenues, and some cases that may initially be considered “contested” can actually be resolved through negotiation or mediation during the period in which the parties are preparing for litigation.

If that’s not possible, our team will provide the legal representation and support you need to achieve a favorable outcome in court. Schedule your consultation by calling (855) 541-4867.

What is a contested divorce?

If spouses cannot reach an agreement on one or more issues, they must proceed with a contested divorce to settle those unresolved issues. They’ll present their positions, evidence, and witness testimony to the judge who will then make a decision.

The judge can rule in favor of either party, or they can issue an order that they feel is fair, reasonable, and consistent with the law. Sometimes these decisions can be different from either parties’ position. 

The process of a contested divorce

1. File a complaint

In Fairfax, a contested divorce begins with the filing of a Complaint in the Circuit Court. The Complaint must state the grounds for divorce, which could include adultery, cruelty, desertion, constructive desertion, or a one-year separation. 

2. Serve the complaint

After filing the Complaint, the Plaintiff (the filing party) must then have the Complaint served on their spouse, the Defendant. This can be done through a process server or delivery by the sheriff.

The Defendant may then submit an Answer to the Complaint, admitting or denying all of its allegations. The Defendant can also file a Counterclaim in which they can make their own allegations and requests, just as the Plaintiff has done in their Complaint.

3. Pretrial motions and conference

Pretrial motions can be filed by either party to request certain actions or rulings such as interim orders pending trial such as temporary child and spousal support, granting one party exclusive use and possession of the marital home, and preventing the parties from dissipating marital funds. 

4. Discovery period

The case will then enter the discovery period where each side has the opportunity to request information and evidence from the other party to build their respective cases through interrogatories,  request for production of documents, request for admissions, and depositions. .

5. Trial

Finally, a trial will be held. Both parties will have the chance to present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments in front of a judge. Expert opinions and testimony can be used to support either side’s arguments.

This typically includes financial, medical, and psychological experts who can provide insight into the case. The judge will then review all of the evidence and testimony before issuing a final judgment.

contested divorce lawyer courtroom

Issues in a contested divorce

Married couples share a wide range of responsibilities and obligations during the course of their marriage. When they’re ready to divorce, they must divide these responsibilities between them.

Property division

Tangible property such as furniture, vehicles, and other items of value must be divided between the spouses. All Real Property of the parties must be divided as well. While an uncontested divorce allows the couple to come up with their own property settlement, a judge will decide how the property will be divided in a contested divorce according to the laws of Virginia.

Virginia is an equitable division state which means that all property acquired during the marriage is marital property (with a few exceptions) and must be divided equitably, even if only one spouse’s name is on the title. 

Important note

“Equitable” doesn’t necessarily mean “equal.” The judge will consider several factors when dividing the estate, such as the income available to each party and their respective earning potentials, the support ordered, and whether or not they have a separate property estate. 

Assets

The contested divorce process also involves the division of intangible assets such as investments, bank accounts, and retirement plans. The same principles of equitable division apply.

Debts

Married couples can also be liable for each other’s debts — and as with property, the name listed on the debt is usually irrelevant. In a contested divorce, the court will assign responsibility for paying off any shared debts between the spouses.

Shared debts are typically those incurred during the marriage and can include mortgages, car loans, credit card bills, medical bills, personal loans, and other types of debt. However, some marital debt can include debt incurred after the separation in certain circumstances.

A common example of equitable division of debts is when the higher-earning spouse is assigned a greater share of the marital debt because they have an increased ability to pay those debts.

Child custody

In a contested divorce, the court will determine who should have legal custody of the parties’ minor children and what the custodial time sharing arrangement will be. In doing so, the court will consider several factors that may impact the children’s best interests, including: 

  • Each child’s age, physical condition, and mental condition
  • The child’s changing developmental needs
  • The parents’ ages, physical conditions, and mental conditions
  • Each parent’s relationship with the child
  • The parents’ ability to provide a safe, stable, and loving environment
  • The child’s preferences, if they’re of an appropriate age

contested divorce custody

Child support

Both parents are responsible for the financial support of their shared minor children after a divorce, regardless of which parent is awarded custody. The court will consider factors such as custody arrangements, each parent’s income and earning potential, insurance costs for the children, and daycare costs of the children when determining how much child support is due.

Spousal support/alimony

In many marriages, one spouse is economically dependent on the other. If the court finds that one spouse has a need for financial support and the other has the ability to pay, it may award spousal support, which may also be called alimony. The court considers factors such as each spouse’s age and health, earning capacity and employability, the length of the marriage when making this decision, and the standard of living during the marriage when making this decision.

Expenses included in a contested divorce

In general, the more contentious the divorce, the higher the cost and the longer it’ll take. The majority of these added expenses will be in the form of attorney’s fees. Litigation typically involves more paperwork and court appearances than out-of-court negotiations, requiring more of your attorney’s time.

A contested divorce also involves additional expenses such as court fees, filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition costs, and the cost of obtaining evidence through discovery. There may also be expenses associated with child custody evaluations or appraisals of marital property.

Despite the added cost, a contested divorce is worth it if you need the court to settle an important issue such as property division or child custody. The outcome of your divorce will impact you and your family long after the paperwork is signed, so the cost of a contested divorce is an investment in your future.

Let our Fairfax contested divorce attorneys help you today

Divorce isn’t just a set of legal proceedings — it’s the unraveling of a shared life. The legal complexities, financial issues, and emotional toll can be overwhelming, and you shouldn’t face it alone.

The Fairfax family law attorneys at Select Law Partners PLLC understand the deeply personal nature of divorce and are here to provide the support, guidance, and legal representation you need. We’ll take the time to get to know you and your situation, build a comprehensive strategy to protect your interests, and fight for the best possible outcome.

If you’re ready to begin exploring your divorce options, contact us today at (855) 541-4867 for a consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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