There are four ways that an uncontested divorce can be finalized in Virginia: affidavit, deposition, ore tenus hearing or commissioner's hearing. All four options are described below, however, by affidavit is used across the state and is the easiest method.
The easiest and most widely used method is by affidavit. Plaintiff's Affidavit affirms to the Court that the requirements for a no-fault divorce have been met. The Plaintiff must sign the affidavit in front of a Notary Publicm and file it. Prior to July 1, 2021, in addition to the Plaintiff's Affidavit, an affidavit swearing to similar facts and signed by a corroborating witness was also needed.
A deposition consists of questions asked to a witness under oath by an attorney with a court reporter or stenographer present making a record of everything said. However, in the context of a Virginia uncontested divorce, the process of having a deposition taken much more closely resembles the affidavit process explained above.
Generally, the Plaintiff will schedule an appointment with a Notary Public (or other person authorized to take oaths) for the taking of the deposition of the Plaintiff. Written notice of the deposition time and location is given to the Defendant, although Defendants are not required to attend and rarely do. The Plaintiff must present the Notary Public with picture ID. After the deposition questions have been asked and the responses have been filled in on the deposition form, the Plaintiff signs the depositions and then the Notary Public signs.
While affidavit is the preferred method for finalizing uncontested divorces in Virginia, judges in a few counties sometimes require an ore tenus hearing before signing the Decree. Ore tenus simply means oral testimony, and is not unlike the final hearings that many states require to finalize uncontested divorces. The Plaintiff files a Request for Ore Tenus Hearing, which is a one-page document asking the judge to schedule the case for a final hearing. At the hearing, which the Defendant is not required to attend, the Plainitiff is sworn in and gives testimony to show that the requirements for a Virginia divorce have been met. Most hearings last less than 15 minutes. At the end of the hearing, the judge signs the Decree to finalize the divorce.
A commissioner's hearing, which is a court hearing with a commissioner in chancery of the Circuit Court instead of a judge, is the least common method for finalizing a divorce. Generally, this procedure is used in contested cases. To get a divorce finalized by commissioner's hearing, Plaintiff files a Decree of Reference instead of an affidavit. Because commissioner's hearings often involve contested issues, they generally take longer than an ore tenus hearing and require the presence of the Defendant.
While divorce is never easy, by eliminating the corroborating witness requirement, Virginia has signifiantly lessened the burden on divorce plaintiffs. No longer is it necessary to involve a third-party in such private matters. Now, as is the case in all other states (except Arkansas), which require a hearing to finalize an uncontested divorce, the sworn testimony of the Plaintiff alone, be it in the form of an affidavit, deposition or in court testimony, is sufficient to prove that the requirements for divorce have been met.
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