Virginia Divorce Basics

Learn the basics of a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, in Virginia.

In Virginia, there are both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. A no-fault divorce is also  referred to as “separation divorce” and the grounds can be met by the spouses showing that they have lived separate and apart for more than one year without cohabitation. The one year requirement may be reduced to six months if the spouses have entered into a property or separation agreement and there are no children of the marriage.

Grounds for Divorce

In Virginia, there are both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. A no-fault divorce is also  referred to as “separation divorce” and the grounds can be met by the spouses showing that they have lived separate and apart for more than one year without cohabitation. The one year requirement may be reduced to six months if the spouses have entered into a property or separation agreement and there are no children of the marriage.

Fault grounds for divorce in Virginia include adultery, sodomy, buggery, or conviction of a felony (and imprisonment of at least one year). In order to cite adultery, there must be some evidence, but not to the extent of eyewitness testimony. Sodomy can only be a ground for divorce if it was committed with someone outside of the marriage. Buggery is otherwise known as bestiality and has the same evidence standard as adultery.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

In order to file for divorce in Virginia, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before the filing and must remain a resident at the time of the filing.

In the case where the two spouses have reached a separation agreement and there are no children, then the waiting period before the divorce can be finalized is six months. However, if the couple has minor children or does not have a separation agreement, then the waiting period is one year.

See, Filing for Divorce in Virginia: Basic Steps, for more information.

Property Division in Virginia

When a couple going through divorce cannot reach an agreement about how their property should be divided, the court will step in and divide the property for them. The court would divide the property in an equitable way, which means in a way the court thinks is fair based on all the circumstances, but not necessarily equally. Each spouse would keep any separate property (owned before the marriage or received as a gift of inheritance), while marital property would be divided.

Learn more in our article on Virginia Divorce: Dividing Property.

Alimony

The court may award one spouse alimony if it is appropriate, based on the spouses’ resources and needs, the length of the marriage, each parties’ education, training, and ability to provide for themselves, and any special circumstances.

A judge may order that the alimony be paid in a lump sum amount or in monthly payments.

Read, Understanding and Calculating Spousal Support (Alimony) in Virginia, to learn more about how it works.

Child Support

Virginia provides a schedule to help calculate parents' child support obligations. The schedule compares the parents’ combined gross monthly income to the number of children that need to be supported. For example, if the parents’ combined gross monthly income is $2,900 and there are two children, then the guideline support is $675 for both children. However, if the combined gross monthly income is over $10,000, then the child support is calculated based on a percentage of that income. The guideline schedule and other information about child support can be found at the website for the Virginia Department of Social Services, here.

Learn more in our article on Child Support Laws in Virginia.

Child Custody

Virginia has adopted the best interests of the child standard, in which a judge examines how a proposed custody arrangement will affect a child’s well-being. The court will look at the child’s needs, the relationship of the child to each parent, the role that each parent has played in the child’s life and will play in the future, and the child’s preference if the child is mature enough.

A parent who wishes to relocate with the child must give the court and the other parent written notice of the intent to move at least 30 days before the move is supposed to take place, in order to give the other parent the opportunity to object in court.

Find more information in, Child Custody in Virginia: The Best Interests of the Child, by Desiree Howard.

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