When Virginia spouses divorce, both have an opportunity to be involved in the process, and mandatory notifications from one spouse to the other ensure that neither spouse can get a divorce in secret, hiding from the other spouse. However, a spouse wishing to divorce sometimes cannot locate the other spouse, so the filing spouse can publish an Order of Publication to use newspapers to give notice to the missing spouse.
Residency and Grounds
Spouses cannot get a divorce in Virginia until one or both of them have been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce. Spouses can file for divorce on no-fault grounds of separation or on fault-based grounds. Fault grounds, such as adultery, conviction of a felony, cruelty, or abandonment, require proof that the grounds exist. Virginia allows spouses to be divorced, without proving either party was at fault, if they have been separated for at least a year. The required separation period is six months, if the couple has entered a separation agreement and no children are involved.
Beginning a Divorce
The divorce process begins when one spouse files a complaint for divorce with the appropriate local court. The complaint includes basic information about the spouses and marriage, along with the grounds for divorce and list of any minor children born during the marriage. The complaint also must include a statement that both spouses are at least 18 and a statement of each spouse’s military status. Once a spouse files a complaint for divorce, he must serve a copy of the complaint on his spouse. Divorce paperwork can be personally served on the other spouse by a sheriff or private process server, and the non-filing spouse can waive service.
Service by Publication
If the non-filing spouse does not live in Virginia or cannot be located, he can be served by publication, but the filing spouse must first make a diligent effort to locate the missing spouse. This may include checking with friends and relatives, searching phone directories and checking with the post office for a forwarding address. The Order of Publication must be published in an appropriate local newspaper, as determined by the court where the case was filed. The Order of Publication must be published at least once a week for four consecutive weeks.
Completing the Divorce
When a filing spouse uses service by publication, he must file additional paperwork to move forward with the divorce, including the original Order of Publication and an affidavit describing the residency of the non-filing spouse. Once the publication requirements are complete, the court can move forward with the divorce. However, the court can only terminate the marriage and include any written agreements the spouses reached. If the spouses did not reach agreement, the court cannot resolve any issues other than terminating the marriage.