Can I File for Divorce Without an Attorney in Virginia?
It’s not uncommon for people to wonder if they can file for divorce without retaining an attorney. In Virginia, you can file for divorce on your own, but it’s not necessarily advisable in all situations. For couples who have very few assets, no children, and the divorce is uncontested, filing on your own might be the better option. However, for couples with children, a home, and complicated assets like a family business or multiple investments, we recommend that you retain a skilled Virginia divorce attorney.
Virginia law allows for you to represent yourself in all legal matters, including divorce. If you file for divorce without an attorney, it’s called “pro se,” which means you are representing yourself. It’s important you understand that by representing yourself, you may be giving up certain rights. Do not look to represent yourself unless you first determine what assets your spouse has — consider insurance policies, pension, other retirement accounts, a lot of property, etc. If you do not ask for a portion of these in your divorce, you forfeit your rights forever.
Residency Requirements in Virginia
Before you consider filing, you must ensure you meet the legal requirements to file for divorce in Virginia. To start, you must file in the circuit court where either you or your spouse lives. One of you must have been a resident for the six months prior to filing. You are not required to live at the same address in order to fulfill the residency requirement. One of you can live across the state or even out of state, as long as the other meets the residency requirement in Virginia.
Fault and No-Fault Divorces
In Virginia, you can file for a divorce based on the following no-fault grounds:
- Living separate and apart without any cohabitation for at least one year, or
- Living separate and apart without any cohabitation for at least six months if there are no children and the spouses have entered into a separation agreement.
If you are filing for divorce based on some type of wrongdoing by your spouse, you need to give the Commonwealth an acceptable reason to grant your divorce. In Virginia, grounds for an at-fault divorce include:
- Adultery; or sodomy or buggery with someone other than his or her spouse;
- Once married, one spouse was convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than one year in jail, and no cohabitation has resumed since; or
- One spouse is guilty of cruelty or abandonment after a period of one year from the date the incident occurred.
Speak with a Virginia Family Law Attorney
Remember, each divorce is unique. Don’t listen to your friends and family who want you to hire a “shark” and get involved in an aggressive fight. This will only delay the time before the divorce is final, and cost you a lot in legal expenses.
Before you file for divorce pro se, it’s smart to at least speak to an experienced Virginia divorce attorney first. An attorney can go over your assets and discuss whether or not it would be beneficial to file on your own or not. Contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.