Along with the practical and emotional challenges involved in ending a marriage, divorce requires navigating the legal system and following lots of steps. It also usually involves concerns about money and your children.
You can find answers here to your questions about divorce laws in Virginia and how the process works.
You may get a divorce in Virginia as long as you or your spouse has lived in the state for at least six months immediately before your file your divorce papers with the court. Learn more about the process of filing for divorce in Virginia.
Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite-sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.
Virginia law has both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorce grounds. If you're filing for a fault-based divorce, you must claim (and prove) that your spouse engaged in a certain kind of misconduct, like adultery or cruelty. If you want a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must have been separated for a certain period of time (more on that below).
The only no-fault divorce ground in Virginia requires that you and your spouse lived separate and apart, with no interruption or sexual relations, for at least a year before you filed your divorce papers—or six months if you don't have children and have signed a separation agreement. (Va. Code § 20-91(9) (2022).)
You must meet this separation requirement if you want to get an uncontested divorce in Virginia, but filing for a no-fault divorce doesn't necessarily mean that your case won't be contested.
Virginia law allows a procedure called "divorce from bed and board," which is similar to a legal separation. You don't have to go through this legal process to meet the separation requirement for an actual divorce, but you might choose to do so if you want court orders on issues like child support or which spouse will stay in the family home.
When you file your divorce complaint and other paperwork, you'll need to pay a filing fee unless you apply and qualify for a waiver. In Virginia, filing fees for divorce vary from county to county, but they're usually just under $100.
Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:
Virginia doesn't have a legal waiting period before a judge will grant your final divorce. The amount of time your divorce will take depends on the individual circumstances, such as:
Virginia is what's known as an "equitable division" state. That means that when judges divide a couple's marital property in divorce—including retirement accounts—they'll aim at what's fair, which won't necessarily be a 50/50 split. Even though splitting retirement accounts can get complicated, the equitable division rule still applies. The same goes for assigning responsibility for debts.
All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in any Virginia divorce must be based on what would be in the children's best interests. Judges will consider a number of factors when they make custody decisions (or decide whether to approve the parents' agreement on the issue), including the custody preferences of children who have the understanding and intelligence to express a reasonable opinion on the issue.
Like all states in the U.S., Virginia has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn how child support is calculated in Virginia, including when support amounts may depart from the guideline.
Before judges will order one spouse to pay spousal support (alimony) in Virginia after a divorce, they must consider a long list of specific circumstances in the case. Judges have more leeway when deciding on temporary spousal support during the divorce proceedings, based mostly on whether one spouse needs the financial support.
Yes, you may agree with your spouse about how to handle the issues in your dissolution of marriage at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial.
If you've filed for an uncontested divorce and submitted your separation agreement along with all of the other required paperwork, you usually won't need to go to a court hearing to get your final divorce. A judge will review your agreement, approve it (unless there's some problem), and make it part of the divorce decree.
If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about any of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Anytime you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's always in your best interests to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair for both you and your ex.
If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the narrow grounds for void or voidable marriages. Learn more about annulment in Virginia, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of annulling a marriage.
You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Virginia. Here are some other resources: