Virginia Divorce Law

Residency Requirements and Where to File

To file for a divorce, one of the parties must be and has been an actual bona fide resident and domiciliary of this Commonwealth for at least six months preceding the commencement of the suit. The circuit court shall have jurisdiction of suits for annulling or affirming marriage and for divorces, and claims for separate maintenance, and such suits shall be heard by the judge as equitable claims. [Based on Code of Virginia, Title 20, Section 20-96]

Legal Grounds For Divorce:

A divorce may be granted on the following grounds in Virginia:

  • Living separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. If there are no children of the marriage, the time limit is six months.
  • Adultery
  • Where either of the parties subsequent to the marriage has been convicted of a felony, sentenced to confinement for more than one year and confined for such felony subsequent to such conviction, and cohabitation has not been resumed after knowledge of such confinement (in which case no pardon granted to the party so sentenced shall restore such party to his or her conjugal rights).
  • Where either party has been guilty of cruelty, caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willfully deserted or abandoned the other, such divorce may be decreed to the innocent party after a period of one year from the date of such act.

[Based on Code of Virginia, Title 20, Section 20-91]

Legal Separation:

A divorce from bed and board may be decreed for cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, willful desertion or abandonment. In granting a divorce from bed and board, the court may decree that the parties be perpetually separated and protected in their persons and property. Such decree shall operate upon property thereafter acquired, and upon the personal rights and legal capacities of the parties, as a decree for a divorce from the bond of matrimony, except that neither party shall marry again during the life of the other.

In any case where a decree of divorce from bed and board has been granted, and the court shall determine that one year has elapsed since the event which gave rise to such divorce or, 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, that six months has elapsed since such event, and the parties have been separated without interruption since such divorce was granted and no reconciliation is probable, it may merge such decree into a decree for divorce from the bond of matrimony upon application of either party. [Based on Code of Virginia, Title 20, Sections 20.95, 20-116 and 20-121]

Mediation or Counseling Requirements:

The parties to any petition where a child whose custody, visitation, or support is contested shall show proof that they have attended within the 12 months prior to their court appearance or that they shall attend within 45 days thereafter an educational seminar or other like program conducted by a qualified person or organization approved by the court except that the court may require the parties to attend such seminar or program in uncontested cases only if the court finds good cause. [Based on Code of Virginia, Title 20, Section 20-103]

Dividing Marital Property:

Virginia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that if the parties can't agree, the marital property will be distributed in an equitable fashion, not necessarily equally. The amount of any division or transfer of jointly owned marital property, and the amount of any monetary award, the apportionment of marital debts, and the method of payment shall be determined by the court after consideration of the following factors:

  • The contributions, monetary and non-monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family.
  • The contributions, monetary and non-monetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties.
  • How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired.
  • 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.
  • The liquid or non-liquid character of all marital property.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • 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.
  • Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.

Separate property is (1) all property, real and personal, acquired by either party before the marriage; (2) all property acquired during the marriage by bequest, devise, descent, survivorship or gift from a source other than the other party; (3) 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 (4) that part of any property classified as separate property. [Based on Code of Virginia, Title 20, Section 20-107.3]
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