How to File for Divorce in Virginia Without a Lawyer

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to File for Divorce in Virginia Without a Lawyer

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Divorces can have a reputation for being messy and long legal battles. While they sometimes can certainly be lengthy and complex, others can be rather quick and relatively inexpensive. When spouses mutually agree to end the marriage on positive terms, they may be able to undergo proceedings without the need for a lawyer.

Woman with a confused expression sitting next to a man at a desk looking at a laptop

Follow these simple steps when filing for an uncontested divorce in the state of Virginia.

1. Ensure that you physically separate from your significant other.

You must be separated from your spouse before you can file for a no-fault divorce in Virginia. If you do not have children, you must be separated for at least six months and have a written property settlement agreement in place before you can file. If, however, you do have children together or do not have a property settlement agreement, you must be separated for at least one year.

2. Determine where you are going to file.

To begin these proceedings, either party must have been a Virginia resident for at least six months before the date of filing. If you are currently deployed, you must have been a resident for at least six months before the deployment began. So long as you meet the residency requirement, you should file in the county you live in. The Virginia Circuit Court will oversee the legal process.

3. File the forms and serve the other party.

To start the formal proceedings, you will file a complaint and related forms with the applicable court. You can obtain the required documentation online by visiting the state's website.

The complaint must include basic information, including the grounds for divorce, sufficient evidence that the residency requirement was met, the date and location of the marriage, names and birthdates of children (if applicable), and each spouse's military status. You will also need to complete a cover sheet and a state-specific form titled Commonwealth of Virginia Report of Divorce or Annulments (Form VS-4). You will also pay a filing fee, which varies depending on the circuit court you file in.

After filing, provide the other party with copies of all the paperwork. You can provide these documents through formal service of process or informally providing them if they agree in writing to waive formal service.

4. Request and attend a hearing or alternatively file an affidavit.

Request and attend an ore tenus hearing, which is an expedited meeting of about 10 minutes or less. The request must include the following:

  • Proposed divorce order signed by both parties
  • Name change request (if applicable)
  • Copy of any separation agreements
  • VS-4 form
  • Copy of the proof of formal service or your spouse's waiver of service

After filing the ore tenus request, a subsequent hearing date will be set. Bring all of your evidence and answer any questions the judge might ask you. In an uncontested filing, you can avoid a hearing by submitting affidavits. Both parties must prepare and sign separate documents attesting that all of the information in the complaint is true. You must each sign them in front of a qualified, independent witness who will also sign. Thereafter, you'll file them with the court.

5. Obtain a final order from the judge.

The final step of the divorce process is to wait for the judge to sign the final decree. This is the document that will complete the actual proceedings. You will receive a copy of it, which you should keep for your own records. You are required to follow all of the rules established in the order.

If you are contemplating divorce, speak to your partner to potentially find common ground, and begin proceedings for an uncontested filing.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.