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Virginia Divorce Process

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

The process for getting a divorce depends on the state in which the case is filed. The length of time it takes to get a divorce can also vary depending on the circumstances, such as the amount of joint property or the length of the marriage. However, even "simple" divorces will require a petitioner to follow specific procedures.

Types of Divorce in Virginia

In Virginia, there are actually two types of divorce: divorce from bed and board and divorce from bond of matrimony. A divorce from bed and board is partial divorce, where the parties are still married on paper, but legally separated. Divorce from bond of matrimony, on the other hand, is a "normal" divorce.

Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

In Virginia, both no-fault and fault divorces are available. The grounds for fault divorce are:

  • Adultery or other sexual acts outside marriage;
  • Willful desertion or abandonment;
  • Cruelty or reasonable fear of bodily harm; and
  • Felony conviction with a sentence of at least one year and a period of actual imprisonment.

It's important to remember that, while filing a divorce based on a fault ground requires very specific proof, there may be cases where the proof of fault may have an effect on how property is divided.

Virginia Divorce Process: An Overview

It's important to go to the source when conducting research, but statutes are often written in an unnecessarily complex manner. That's why it's helpful to read an overview of the statutes in plain English. In the table below, you can find an overview of the divorce process in Virginia as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s)

Virginia Code, Title 20, Chapter 6. Section 20-89.1, et seq. (Divorce, Affirmation and Annulment)

Residency Requirements to File for Divorce

At least one spouse must have resided in Virginia for a minimum of six months (without interruption).

Waiting Period Before Filing for Divorce

In no-fault divorces and divorces based on desertion or cruelty, spouses must live apart continuously for at least:

  • One year if there are minor children
  • Six months if there no minor children
General Steps to Get a Divorce in Virginia
  1. File a "Bill of Complaint for Divorce" in the appropriate circuit court.
  2. Provide legal notice to your spouse, which is done by officially serving them with copies of the complaint.
  3. Your spouse will file an "Answer" (if contesting some or all of the Complaint) or a "Waiver of Notice" (if not contesting the Complaint).
  4. If the divorce is uncontested, there may be a hearing or you may file a deposition or affidavit to corroborate the facts of the case.
  5. If the divorce is contested, there's a trial and the judge will hand down a ruling.
  6. The judge will issue a "Final Decree of Divorce."
Related Statute(s)

Virginia Code. Title 20. Chapter 8. Section 20-147, et seq. (Premarital Agreement Act)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Virginia Divorce Process: Related Resources

For additional information and resources related to this topic, please click on the links listed below.

Get Legal Help with the Divorce Process in Virginia

While this article provides a helpful overview of the divorce process in Virginia, nothing beats discussing your unique situation with a skilled attorney. If you're considering filing for divorce, it's in your best interest to speak with a local divorce attorney who will be familiar with the laws in Virginia and guide you through the divorce process.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.