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What is the Process of Getting a Divorce in Virginia?

Reliable Legal Help from Turk & Turk, P.C. in Radford, VA

What is the process of getting a divorce in Virginia? When a marriage ends in divorce, it can be hard to know what to do. Some people separate and divorce while remaining friendly and on good terms throughout the process. However, the divorce may stem from some difficult situations.


This may lead spouses to stop communicating or worse. The law may be the only way for two married people to leading happier lives after divorce. Having an experienced attorney by your side in a divorce matter is invaluable. But where to begin when asking for legal help? An important first check is to know whether you and your spouse meet Virginia’s residency requirements.


Residency Requirements for Divorce in Virginia


You can file for divorce in Virginia if you or your spouse have lived in Virginia for six months before you file and one of you still lives in Virginia at the time you file.

1 VA ST § 20-97


If you or your spouse are in the military, there are slightly different requirements. This is a good time to say that each divorce process is unique. Consult with an attorney about your residency questions or any other concerns. In fact, it can help calm some of the fear and anxiety during a difficult time.


Grounds for Divorce in the Commonwealth of Virginia

The second aspect to consider is whether you have ‘grounds for divorce’ that the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes. What are the legally acceptable reasons to end the marriage? In Virginia, as in many states, married persons may obtain a “no-fault” divorce or one based on fault.


You may file for no-fault divorce if you have been living “separate and apart” from your spouse for one year. You may also file if you live separate and apart for six months with a separation agreement and no minor children.


Filing for fault-based divorce may also be based on the following grounds:


Adultery; sodomy outside of the marriage; buggery

Cruelty; threats of bodily harm

Felony conviction; sentenced to a year or more in prison.

There are aspects of the fault-based divorce law that are best to review with an attorney. Some may have a waiting period, or other timeframe limitations that affect when you can file for divorce. Note that if your spouse claims you are at-fault for the divorce, it may affect your ability to receive alimony.


Filing of Divorce Papers in Virginia

Step three in the divorce process is the filing of divorce papers themselves. While this may sound like an easy process, it might be difficult to do in certain circumstances. Each local jurisdiction has rules for what they consider proper service. You can check with the local courthouse. This reality is another aspect of divorce to discuss with your attorney.


Disagreements, Challenges, Contesting, and More

At this fourth part of the divorce process, your spouse has the chance to provide a response. If s/he disagrees with anything in the divorce papers they can then file papers challenging them. Your spouse may express his or her opinion, ask that the divorce be granted under other grounds, or let the court know s/he agrees to the divorce.


In divorces where spouses contest the divorce, it may require one or more appearances in court to sort issues out. If there is no response from your spouse after a certain time period, it may proceed as an ‘uncontested’ divorce. Your attorney will then advise you on any waiting periods and give knowledgeable advice on how to proceed.


Support, Property Division, and Other Negotiations

The fifth aspect of the divorce process relates to matters of support. It also includes dividing any shared property or other assets. This includes debts in common as well, such as bank loans, mortgages, and more.


The Commonwealth of Virginia is an ‘equitable distribution’ state when deciding division of marital property. The court considers a fair, not exactly equal, distribution of property. In other words, it is not always a 50/50 split in the middle as some people might expect.


It is important to consider a number of important issues during this part of the divorce. Failing to address them now could mean losing the chance to deal with them in the future. This is where attorney guidance and negotiation skills can be most effective. The attorney(s) work out settlement negotiations among the parties.


Divorcing spouses may ask about payments of support or maintenance, otherwise known as ‘alimony.’ A judge may award either a lump sum one-time payment, a series of periodic payments over time, or a combination of the two. Different circumstances factor into the length of time a spouse may receive support. We recommend reviewing this with an attorney to protect your rights.


These negotiations can then be included as part of the divorce decree or worked out in a series of court hearings. An example of using a court hearing would be for child custody or child support issues. As with spousal support, parents do hold obligations for supporting children in common after divorce. Review any special health needs, schooling, care, or other obligations your children may require.


Legal Assistance in Getting a Divorce in Virginia

After reviewing these main points of getting a divorce, we you see the benefit of consulting with a divorce lawyer. Having the wisdom and experienced legal assistance of an attorney by your side helps to ensure and uphold your rights. To read more about the divorce process, the Virginia Legal Aid Society offers a Divorce and Separation booklet.


Obtain reliable legal help from Turk & Turk, P.C. in Radford, VA. Just give us a call today at (540) 266-7420, or contact us online and like us on Facebook. Our attorneys are ready to meet with you for a consultation about getting a divorce in Virginia.