Divorce can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. But it doesn't have to involve a drawn-out, expensive court battle. If you and your spouse can agree on how you'll deal with the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage, you can save money and time by filing for an uncontested divorce in Virginia—and you can probably get your divorce without a lawyer.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce in Virginia, you must meet three basic requirements: state residency, agreement on the reason for your divorce, and agreement on the issues in your case.
To get a divorce in Virginia, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months immediately before starting the divorce case. (Va. Code § 20-97 (2022).)
As in all states, you need a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for divorce in Virginia. The state allows divorce based on both "fault" grounds and "no-fault" grounds. (Va. Code § 20-91 (2022).)
When you file for a fault-based divorce, you're claiming that your spouse was to blame for the end of your marriage by committing a certain kind of misconduct, like adultery, desertion, or cruelty. As a general rule, you may not file for an uncontested divorce based on a fault ground (although it's possible that you could eventually reach a settlement later in the proceedings, before going to trial).
Unlike many states, Virginia requires that before you may file for a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart, without sexual relations, for a certain period of time:
(Va. Code § 20-91(9)(a) (2022).)
Before you file for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble agreeing about any of your divorce issues—or any other matters you want to address in your divorce—mediation might help you find solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document to prepare your written "separation agreement" (sometimes referred to as a "marital settlement agreement," "property settlement agreement," or "divorce settlement agreement").
As with most legal proceedings, you'll need to submit some forms to start your uncontested Virginia divorce case. Unlike many states, Virginia doesn't provide official court forms for the main documents you'll need. However, Virginia Legal Aid offers a do-it-yourself divorce packet, which includes instructions for filing, as well as a link to an interactive divorce tool that will allow you to create documents for uncontested divorces in certain situations. You should also consider checking the website of the circuit court in the city or county where you're starting the divorce (more on below on where you'll file).
Note that the particular divorce forms you'll need to prepare may depend on your circumstances, such as whether you and your spouse have minor children. Even when your divorce is uncontested, you will fill out the forms as the "plaintiff," and your spouse
The main forms you'll need for an uncontested divorce include:
With an uncontested divorce you can skip the formal process of serving your spouse with the divorce paperwork. Instead, after you've filled out the forms, make two sets of copies, give one set to your spouse, and have your spouse sign an "Acceptance/Waiver of Service of Process" form in the presence of a notary. You may then include this signed, notarized form when you file the rest of the paperwork. Otherwise, your spouse will need to submit the form, along with a copy of the complaint, within a reasonable amount of time after you've filed the complaint. (Va. Code § 20-99.1:1(A) (2022).).
To simplify the process of gathering and completing the divorce forms, you could choose to file for divorce online by using an service that will complete the proper uncontested divorce forms for you, based on your answers to a questionnaire. These online divorce services will typically also help you create a settlement agreement, and some will take care of filing the divorce papers, for an additional fee.
Once you've completed and signed the applicable forms, you'll have to file them with the court. Usually, you'll do this by going in person to the circuit court clerk of the county or city where you're starting the divorce.
In Virginia, you may file your uncontested divorce papers in the city or county where you and your spouse last lived together or, if you prefer, where your spouse currently lives. (Va. Code § 8.01-261(19) (2022).)
You'll almost always need to pay a fee to file the divorce papers (more on that below).
As long as you've met the requirements for beginning an uncontested divorce, you should be able to get your divorce decree not long after you've filed the necessary divorce papers. Usually, you won't have to appear in court. A judge will review your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will sign the final divorce decree. The exact amount of time this will take could depend on the availability of judges handling divorces in the local court, but it shouldn't take much longer than a couple of months.
As a rule, an uncontested divorce is a lot cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because many couples can get through the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them—which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.
The basic expense for an uncontested divorce will be the court fee for filing the divorce papers. Filing fees in Virginia may vary from county to county, but they're usually about $90. You can use Virginia's Circuit Court Civil Filing Fee Calculator to estimate the fees where you plan to file. If you can't afford the fees, you can request a waiver by filing a "Petition for Proceeding in a No-Fault Divorce Without Payment of Fees or Costs."
Beyond the filing fees, your costs will depend on whether you get a "pure" do-it-yourself divorce or you need some help with the process.