Virginia Divorce FAQ

Get answers to some of the most common questions about getting a divorce in Virginia.

By , Legal Editor

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.

Who may file for divorce in Virginia?

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.

What are the legal grounds for divorce in Virginia?

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).

Does Virginia require separation before divorce?

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.

How much does divorce cost in Virginia?

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:

  • whether you can file for an uncontested divorce (meaning that you and your spouse have agreed about all of the legal issues), which would allow you to get a DIY divorce
  • whether you'll need to hire a lawyer to handle your divorce—and, if you do, how much the attorney charges per hour and how long it will take to resolve the disputes in your case.

How long will it take to get divorced in Virginia?

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:

  • When you've filed for an uncontested divorce in Virginia (which means that you've already been separated for long enough), you should be able to get your final divorce decree not long after you've submitted all the required paperwork—probably about two months, depending on the availability of a judge in your county to review your documents.
  • If your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months to the process. The actual amount of time will depend on how hard you and your spouse are fighting over the issues, whether you need to get expert opinions, and other details.
  • And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point in the process (more on that below), going to trial will require even more time—usually considerably more than a year.
  • Court backlogs can also make the entire process take longer.

How is marital property divided in Virginia?

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.

How is child custody decided in Virginia?

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.

What are the child support guidelines in Virginia?

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.

How does spousal support work in Virginia?

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.

Can we agree to an out-of-court settlement in our Virginia divorce?

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.

What happens if we can't agree on a divorce settlement?

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.

When can I get an annulment in Virginia?

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.

Where can I get more information and help with my Virginia divorce?

You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Virginia. Here are some other resources:

  • Virginia Legal Aid. This organization provides a do-it-yourself divorce packet, including a worksheet and instructions for filing. But note you might not be able to use this worksheet, depending on your situation. Their website also has a tool to search for legal aid in Virginia, if you're eligible based on income guidelines.
  • If you want the cost-and-time advantages of an uncontested divorce but are having trouble agreeing with your spouse about all of the issues, divorce mediation can help you find solutions and common ground. At the end of the process, the mediator will typically prepare a written document that reflects any of the agreements you've reached.
  • Online divorce. And if you've reached a complete settlement but need more help with the uncontested divorce forms than you can get through the court, you might try an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms, based on your answers to a questionnaire.
  • Of course, there are some divorces that require a lawyer's help. If that's true in your case, here are some questions to ask before hiring a divorce attorney.