How to Divorce in Virginia

Divorce can be extremely difficult. Not only is it a very emotionally draining time, but also the laws surrounding it can be quite complex. The state of Virginia is no different. In order to even be eligible for a divorce, an individual must meet certain requirements.

Firstly, in order to legally file for divorce in Virginia, an individual must have been a resident of the state that they are filing in, for at least six months. The plaintiff may choose to file for divorce in either the city or county where either both spouses live or where the defendant lives.

For couples who do not have children – whether biological or not – both spouses must be separated from one another for a minimum period of six months. (Couples who do in fact have children, must have been separated for a minimum of one year before filing.) This means that they may not have engaged in any physical relations, and that they have resided in two separated places. Furthermore, they must both sign a separation agreement, which states how they wish to divide any marital property or assets. When a couple cannot come to an agreement, the court must step in.

A No-Fault State

Virginia is not a no-fault state, meaning that an individual needs to show grounds for the divorce. These are very specific reasons for the end of the marriage. Such grounds include:

  • Adultery. A spouse may file for divorce if the other spouse has committed adultery, meaning they have had intimate relations outside of the marriage. However, in order to qualify for this reasoning, the individual may not have chosen to reside with the cheater after finding out about the infidelity. Additionally, they must file within five years of learning of this behavior.
  • Cruelty. An individual may file for divorce if the other spouse has executed any bodily harm or abandonment of them. However, in order to qualify, an individual must file for divorce within one year of this event.
  • Felony. If one spouse has committed a felony after the marriage, resulting in at least one year of their imprisonment, the other spouse may file.
  • Separation. Separation rules are dependent upon whether the couple has children or not, as previously discussed.

The Divorce Process

There are two different types of divorce proceedings: contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce is one that is granted after a separation. As mentioned, couples without children may file for divorce after a minimum of six months of separation, while those with children may file only after a minimum of one year. The will also require a separation agreement. For couples without children, this agreement must state that they can no longer live together in matrimony, they have agreed to end their marriage, and must include a plan for division of the assets. However, for couples who have children, this agreement must additionally include a sufficient plan for the future custody and support of their children.

For a contested divorce, there is no separation agreement, seeing as how the spouses cannot agree on things such as child custody or division of the assets. A judge will then make the decision for the couple.

The actual divorce process requires:

  1.  The plaintiff filing the complaint, which generally includes:
  • Proof that the defendant meets the residency requirement
  • Date and setting of the marriage
  • Names and dates of any minor children from the marriage
  • A claim for divorce based on any accepted grounds
  1. The defendant submitting an admittance or denial of the plaintiff’s claims as well as any counter-claims.

Uncontested divorces in Virginia generally take about 18 months to be finalized, and contested divorces generally go into effect about 30 days after the judge’s final decree signature – unless a party files an appeal.

Posted in: Family Law