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Virginia Divorce Laws

The divorce laws in VA are unique to the state. We've created a helpful listing of the important divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.

We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce.

Residency Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in Virginia, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:

In suits for annulment, affirmance, or divorce, the county or city in which the parties last cohabited, or at the option of the plaintiff, in the county or city in which the defendant resides, if a resident of this Commonwealth, and in cases in which an order of publication may be issued against the defendant under § 8.01-316, venue may also be in the county or city in which the plaintiff resides. (Virginia Code - Title 8 - Sections: 8.01-261)

No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Virginia the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:

(1) On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. In any case where the parties have entered into a separation agreement and there are no minor children either born of the parties, born of either party and adopted by the other or adopted by both parties, a divorce may be decreed on application if and when the husband and wife have lived separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months. (Virginia Code - Title 20 - Sections: 20-91)

Filing Party Name: The Plaintiff. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Complaint for Divorce with the county court.

Non-Filing Party Name: The Defendant. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.

Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: Circuit Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, or Family Court. All divorce cases in the state of Virginia are facilitated through this court for that particular county.

Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Virginia clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: County Clerk's Office of the Family Court.

Property and Debt Division: Virginia is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.

Separate property is (i) all property, real and personal, acquired by either party before the marriage; (ii) all property acquired during the marriage by bequest, devise, descent, survivorship or gift from a source other than the other party; (iii) all property acquired during the marriage in exchange for or from the proceeds of sale of separate property, provided that such property acquired during the marriage is maintained as separate property; and (iv) that part of any property classified as separate.

Marital property is (i) all property titled in the names of both parties, whether as joint tenants, tenants by the entirety or otherwise, except as provided by subdivision A 3, (ii) that part of any property classified as marital, or (iii) all other property acquired by each party during the marriage which is not separate property.

The court will consider the following factors when dividing the property: a. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; b. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties; c. The duration of the marriage; d. The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties; e. The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage f. How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired; g. The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities; h. The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property; i. The tax consequences to each party; j. The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and k. Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award. (Virginia Code - Title 20 - Sections: 20-107.3)

Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.

The court shall consider the following when making a support award: A. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature; B. The standard of living established during the marriage; C. The duration of the marriage; D. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family; E. The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home; F. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; G. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible; H. The provisions made with regard to the marital property; I. The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity; J. The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability; K. The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market; L. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and M. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties. (Virginia Code - Title 20 - Sections: 20-95 and 10-107.1 and 20-108.1)

Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Virginia courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.

Custody, whether joint or sole, will be awarded to the father or the mother or both based on the best interests of the children. There are no specific factors considered by the courts, but the following is a list of typical factors taken into consideration when determining a custody arrangement that is best for the children. These factors are, but are not limited to; the age of the children, the health of the children, the wishes of the children, the parental roles of each parent, and the needs of the children. (Virginia Code - Title 20 - Sections: 20-107.2)

Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Virginia child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.

Upon entry of a decree providing (i) for the dissolution of a marriage, (ii) for a divorce, whether from the bond of matrimony or from bed and board, (iii) that neither party is entitled to a divorce, or (iv) for separate maintenance, the court may make such further decree as it shall deem expedient concerning the custody or visitation and support of the minor children of the parties, including an order that either party provide health care coverage.

The finding that rebuts the guidelines shall state the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines, shall give a justification of why the order varies from the guidelines, and shall be determined by relevant evidence pertaining to the following factors affecting the obligation, the ability of each party to provide child support, and the best interests of the child: A. Actual monetary support for other family members or former family members; B. Arrangements regarding custody of the children; C. Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed; provided that income may not be imputed to the custodial parent when a child is not in school, child care services are not available and the cost of such child care services are not included in the computation; D. Debts of either party arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child; E. Debts incurred for production of income; F. Direct payments ordered by the court for health care coverage, maintaining life insurance coverage pursuant to subsection G, education expenses, or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child and costs related to the provision of health care coverage H. Extraordinary capital gains such as capital gains resulting from the sale of the marital abode; I. Age, physical and mental condition of the child or children, including unreimbursed medical or dental expenses, and child-care expenses; J. Independent financial resources, if any, of the child or children; K. Standard of living for the family established during the marriage; L. Earning capacity, obligations and needs, and financial resources of each parent; M. Education and training of the parties and the ability and opportunity of the parties to secure such education and training; N. Contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; O. Provisions made with regard to the marital property P. Tax consequences to the parties regarding claims for dependent children and child care expenses; Q. A written agreement between the parties which includes the amount of child support; R. A pendente lite decree, which includes the amount of child support, agreed to by both parties or by counsel for the parties; and S. Such other factors, including tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children. (Virginia Code - Title 20 - Sections: 20-107.2, 20-108.1 and 20-108.2)

Copyright Notice: These Virginia divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.

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