The Steps for Obtaining a Divorce in Virginia

by Wayne Thomas
You or your spouse must live in Virginia for six months before filing for divorce.

You or your spouse must live in Virginia for six months before filing for divorce.

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Correctly following all of the rules and procedures for obtaining a divorce can seem like a daunting task. In Virginia, if you decide to move forward without legal assistance, you must first make sure that you are eligible to file in the state and complete the appropriate paperwork. As your case moves forward, the steps for finalizing your divorce will vary depending on your specific circumstances.

Establishing Residency

Before you initiate the divorce process in Virginia, you must make sure that you are legally eligible to file in the state. Under Virginia's residency requirement, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for the previous six months.

The Paperwork

Once residency is established, the next step is to draft a complaint. This document needs to include basic information about the marriage and the reason why you want a divorce. Virginia allows you divorce on the basis of separation from your spouse for one year. If you have no children and have a written separation agreement, this period is reduced to six months. Other grounds for divorce include adultery, extreme cruelty, and felony conviction. These are known as "fault" grounds and need to be proven in court. You may also include specific requests regarding property, spousal support and custody in the complaint.

Filing Procedure

Once you finish the complaint, it must be filed. If your spouse is a resident of Virginia, you may file it with the circuit court in the county where she currently lives or where you last lived together. If she lives out of state and is difficult to locate, you may file the complaint in the county where you live. After the complaint has been filed, you are required to provide your spouse with a copy along with a summons issued by the court. In Virginia, this may be done "personally" by a sheriff, or posted on your spouse's front door and mailed by first class mail.

Uncontested Divorce

If you and your spouse are in agreement on the major divorce issues, the next step is usually a hearing or oral deposition. Here, you and your spouse will testify that all eligibility requirements are met and all divorce matters are settled. The presiding judge will then review your statements and any written agreements and issue the final divorce decree.

Contested Divorce

A trial is necessary if you and your spouse disagree about the reason for divorce or about an aspect of property division, spousal support or custody. In this case, there may be several additional steps, including attending hearings for temporary orders, and making requests to exchange evidence that you and your spouse intend to present at trial. The final step is actually attending the trial where the judge will hear your case and issue the divorce decree.