Going through a divorce is difficult, and trying to figure out how the legal process works can be downright confusing. To help you navigate Virginia’s divorce laws, we’ve compiled a short guide on divorce requirements and processes, including sections on child support and property division.

Virginia Divorce Requirements

The requirements for getting a divorce in Virginia are straightforward. At least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. If there are no children in the marriage, you can get divorced after you have been separated for at least six months. If you have at least one minor child together, you must be separated for at least a year before filing to dissolve your marriage. In either situation, you and your spouse need to present a signed separation agreement.

Types of Divorce and Separation in Virginia

Virginia recognizes both fault and no-fault divorces and allows legal separation.

  • Divorce from bed and board: The parties are legally separated but unable to remarry. For this divorce to happen, fault needs to be shown either through cruel and inhuman treatment or desertion and abandonment. After one year, this can be converted to a divorce from the bond of matrimony.
  • Divorce from the bond of matrimony: This is an absolute divorce and can be no-fault or fault-based. Fault grounds for this divorce include adultery or impermissible sexual act or if a spouse is convicted of a felony with a sentence of more than a year.

Child Custody, Support and Visitation in Virginia

Virginia law prioritizes the best interests of the children when determining child support and custody. The court also assumes that both parents should have frequent contact with their children unless it is inappropriate. Though the parent-child relationship is given priority, anyone who petitions for custody—and has a legitimate right—may be awarded custody if that is what’s best for the children.

Factors that are considered when determining custody arrangements include:

  • Physical and mental condition of the parent and child
  • Specific needs of the child
  • Which home the child will live in
  • The child’s wishes, if they are of sufficient age and maturity to decide

Child support is expected from each parent and is calculated based on several factors. These include:

  • Income from both parents for the child.
  • Spousal support payments (where applicable).
  • Daycare and health insurance expenses for the child.
  • The needs of the child.
  • How much each parent is involved in raising the child.

Under Virginia’s current child support guidelines, the minimum child support amount is $68 monthly.

Property Division in Virginia

Virginia is an equitable division state when dividing property after a divorce. This means that property is not necessarily split 50/50, but courts are fair in dividing a couple’s assets. Only property that is considered marital property will be divided. Generally, this means any property acquired during the marriage—not before.

When determining how to divide a couple’s assets, the court looks at various factors such as the financial contributions of each party, the duration of the marriage, the age and condition of both spouses, how and when the property was acquired and the debts and liabilities of each spouse.

Spousal support—also known as alimony—may be awarded to one spouse depending on factors similar to those used in dividing property. Note that if a spouse (or both spouses) are shown to have been at fault for the divorce, this may affect spousal support eligibility. The presumptive formula for spousal support when children are involved is between 26% of the paying spouse’s gross income and 58% of the receiving spouse’s gross income. If no children are involved, it is the difference between 27% of the paying spouse’s gross income and 50% of the receiving spouse’s gross income. Though these are assumed amounts, the courts can deviate from them if they have good reasons.

Filing and Serving Your Divorce Papers

To begin filing for divorce, you will need to contact the Circuit Court and file a complaint for divorce. Virginia, unlike most states, does not have prescribed forms for filing for divorce. However, VA Legal Aid has a helpful do-it-yourself divorce program you can complete entirely online.

Once you have filed and completed a divorce complaint, this must be served on your spouse. This can be done by a Virginia sheriff, a privately hired process server or anyone over 18 who is not a party to the divorce (e.g., your neighbor). If your spouse is not found at their home, the divorce papers can be served on any person living there who is over 16. Documents can also be posted on the door of your spouse’s home, as long as this is done 10 days before the judgment by default date.

Finalizing Your Divorce

Virginia does not have a prescribed waiting period once your divorce papers have been filed and served properly. If you have reached an agreement with your spouse, you can usually simply submit an affidavit outlining the facts of your case to Virginia Beach’s County Court, along with a final divorce decree. In some cases, the court may require a hearing.

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Last Update: June 28, 2024

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