I live in Richmond, VA, and have been going through the uncontested divorce process for about 8 months now. My depositions were in June and was told I could get a July court date. I was later told that Richmond courts do not require the parties to be present at the hearing. I still wanted a hearing as I am moving out of town the following month. I wanted to make sure the divorce was final before I left town.
I was called and told a date in late August, and asked if we could get another judge to get a July court date or even an early August date. I was later called and told "this particular judge does not require a court hearing." The papers were submitted on July 16th. I have been waiting for 5 weeks now. I have been calling the court every week as well as the lawyers office, without success.
If the Court in Richmond work as they do in Fairfax, the judge will permit his law clerk to review the papers that were submitted. The clerk will go through a checklist of requirements to make sure that everything has been completed. Once that is done, they will sign off on it and forward it to the judge for his signature. Otherwise, it will be sent back to you with informational as to what is missing or incorrect.
There is no statutory time limit on how long the court can hold your papers before signing them. I know it is frustrating, but the court will get to it as it comes up on their desk. The best you can do is keep calling and asking about it in the hopes that the judge will get to it a little sooner.
What follows is a brief and general explanation of the uncontested divorce process so that perhaps you can understand a little better what the court or the lawyer is talking about you when you call them.
1. Steps that should have already happened: A Complaint for Divorce has been filed and served, an answer has been filed (or the time for filing responsive pleadings has expired) AND all issues of property and support (and child custody if that is an issue raised in the complaint) have been resolved - usually via a written Property Settlement & Support Agreement.
2. Sufficient proof must be presented to the court that all of the jurisdictional requirements have been met (residency req., etc.) and that grounds for divorce have been established (in uncontested cases this would be that the parties have lived separate and apart, etc. for a period of either one year or, in cases with no children and a PSA, 6 months). To prove these facts, the complainant and one corroborating witness (other than the spouse) must provide testimonial evidence under oath to the court attesting to each of the necessary facts/elements. The evidence MAY be provided in any one of the following ways:
A. At an Ore Tenus hearing (i.e., a court hearing date is scheduled on the ore tenus docket, the complainant and witness go to court on that day, and they each provide live testimony to the judge in open court);
B. At a divorce deposition (i.e., the complainant and the witness attend a deposition, the oath is administered, each testifies to the facts on the record which the court reporter records, the court reporter then transcribes it, and once transcribed, the deposition transcript is submitted to the court IN LIEU OF/instead of the live testimony.); OR
C. As of July 1st of this year, in certain limited cases, the testimony of the complainant and/or the witness may be presented by Affidavit.
Section 20-106 of the Code of Virginia technically says that the court MAY require oral evidence to be presented in open court, but otherwise provides that the evidence in support of the divorce may be taken by either of these alternative means (deposition or affidavit) in uncontested divorce cases with a PSA. So, by law, a particular court/judge could require Ore Tenus hearings instead. However, I have yet to encounter a jurisdiction where this is the case. Most, if not all, allow for the evidence to be submitted by these alternate methods.
So, when the clerk keeps telling you that the judge does not require a hearing for your divorce, this is what the clerk is talking about. You have already submitted the evidence to the court by deposition. To present it again in court would be redundant and unnecessarily take up the court's time.
3. A Final Decree of Divorce must be properly drafted and endorsed by both parties (or their attorneys), then submitted to the court/judge for entry, together with the PSA and the deposition transcripts. The judge's law clerk will review the proposed FInal Decree and supporting documents and if everything is as it is suppose to be, then the law clerk will give it to the judge for his/her signature. IF one party/attorney did not endorse the Final Decree, then the other side must be provided with notice of the proposed entry, together with a copy of the proposed order.
Most courts allow for this submission to be done either directly to Judge's Chambers OR in court by Motion for Entry of Final Decree. Either way, it still has to be reviewed, etc. before it will be signed.
IF it is YOUR lawyer you have had no success with, then I would suggest driving over to your attorneys office and sitting in the lobby until you can get face time with your attorney in order to clear up your questions. If you don't have an attorney, then you may want to consider getting one to help you expedite this process.
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