To start a divorce in Virginia, a woman must file a complaint in circuit court. In general, she should select the circuit court serving the part of the state where she or her spouse lives. Similarly, if the husband has already filed for divorce, she may need legal information regarding the circuit court where her spouse has started the case. Each circuit court may direct either spouse to specific resources in the area. For example, the clerk's office at each circuit court can often provide county-specific information such as court forms, filing information and fee schedules. The circuit court may also have information about attorney referral programs, local bar associations and legal aid services available to women with children.
Legal Aid Resources
Some women would like to consider legal representation for divorce and custody disputes but worry about the cost of hiring an attorney. In Virginia, various legal aid organizations provide free or low-cost representation to eligible clients. Organizations often serve one geographic area in Virginia, so women should look for resources located close to where they and their children live. In general, women must meet a legal aid organization's financial requirements to become eligible for services. Organizations often ask for information regarding the potential client's income, assets and size of household before determining the individual's eligibility.
Help for Domestic Violence Victims
Family violence can significantly affect the safety and well-being of women and their children. Virginia domestic violence laws seek to help victims of family abuse, including physical violence, as well as protect women who have received threats of imminent violence. A mother can apply for a protective order through the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. The court may grant an emergency, temporary or permanent protective order. A protective order may help to prevent further domestic violence. In addition, a protective order and other evidence of domestic violence may become relevant in a divorce if spouses have a custody dispute. When issuing a court order for custody and visitation, the court must consider the children's best interests. In Virginia, that includes considering a parent's history of family abuse.
Child Support Enforcement
Some mothers need help enforcing child support that is court ordered as part of a divorce. A mother who has physical custody of her children can apply for child support services through the Virginia Department of Social Services Division of Child Support Enforcement. As part of its services, DCSE can assist with the enforcement of a child support order if a noncustodial parent — the parent who doesn't have physical custody — fails to pay child support. Under Virginia law, child support enforcement most often entails the state withholding income from the noncustodial parent's paychecks. However, state law also allows enforcement through property liens, credit reporting, seizure of bank accounts or other financial assets, and suspension of the noncustodial parent's driver's license.