How Do I File for Divorce in Virgina

Here are the basic forms you'll need to file and steps you'll need to take to start the divorce process in Virgina.

If you meet certain requirements, you and your spouse can get a “no fault” divorce without the help of a lawyer. To be eligible, you must meet the following:

  • either you or your spouse have been residents of Virginia for at least six months
  • if there are no children under the age of 18 from the marriage, you must be separated for a minimum of six months and have a written separation/property agreement when you file for divorce, and
  • if there are minor children from the marriage, you must be separated a minimum of one year before you file for a divorce.

The separation must be continuous (without resuming living together for any amount of time) and with the intent that the separation be permanent. If you meet all of the above requirements, then you must follow the steps below to complete a no-fault divorce.

If you do not meet all of the requirements or you have any questions about your case, you need to talk to a lawyer. The court is not allowed to answer questions about your particular case or your legal rights.

Preparing Your Forms

Each county has particular rules about how to fill out divorce forms, so check your county court's website for specifics. Generally, it's best to type your forms and print them out on front side only on white paper, size 8 1/2 inch by 11 inch.

The forms you must file to start the divorce are:

All of the forms will have blanks for “plaintiff” and “defendant.” The person asking the court for a divorce is the “plaintiff,” and the responding spouse is called the “defendant.” Some of the forms must be signed while you and/or your spouse are in front of a Notary Public. Do not sign the forms that require notarization until the person(s) required to sign are in front of a Notary Public.

After completing all the forms, make at least two copies of everything. The court will keep one, you will want one for your records, and you will need a copy for your spouse.

Filing Your Papers

You will file your divorce papers with the Circuit Court by going to the clerk of court’s office in the county or city where you and your spouse last lived together or where your spouse still lives. You may use a Circuit Court Civil Filing Fee Calculator to determine how much it will cost. If you are unable to pay the filing fees or fees to have the papers served on your spouse, you may file a Petition For Proceeding in Civil Case Without Payment of Fees or Costs. If your petition is granted, you will not have to pay fees associated with your case.

Serving Your Forms

You must deliver copies of your divorce papers to your spouse. This delivery is called “service of process.” You may serve the papers by:

Final Divorce Hearing

After you have served your spouse with copies of the divorce papers, you are ready to file a Request for Ore Tenus Hearing. An ore tenus hearing is a oral hearing in front of a judge. You will get may get a Ore Tenus Request form and a Final Decree of Divorce form from the Virginia Poverty Law Center. You will submit these forms to the clerk of court, along with proof of service and your completed VS-4 Form. You must also submit a copy of a separation agreement if you and your spouse signed one.

On the date of your hearing, you must bring copies of all your documents with you to court. You must also bring one corroborating witness with you. This person must have direct personal knowledge of your marriage and circumstances related to your separation. If all legal requirements are met, the judge will grant your divorce at the ore tenus hearing and sign the final divorce decree.

More Information & Resources

See our section on Virginia Divorce and Family Laws for information and the process, and the related legal issues you'll need to consider.

Virginia Poverty Law Center - Self Help Divorce Packet

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