The Divorce Process in Virginia
Going through a divorce is an emotional process, even if both spouses want to part ways. Prior to diving head first into a divorce, it’s important to understand how the divorce process works.
Important Divorce Topics and Terms to Know
Virginia allows for two types of divorce, one of which is essentially with fault and the other no-fault. To obtain a no-fault divorce in the state, you and your spouse are required to live in separate residences without any interruption for at least a year. If there are no minor children and you have a valid separation agreement, you are required to only live apart for six months.
Grounds for a fault divorce include issues like adultery, willful abandonment or desertion, a felony conviction with imprisonment of a year or more, or fear of domestic violence. If you plan to file for an at-fault divorce, you need detailed proof — mere allegations won’t cut it.
Another term you might often hear is contested or uncontested. A contested divorce is one where both spouses are not in agreement on one or more of the aspects in a divorce. These can include child custody and/or support, spousal support, attorney’s fees, etc. An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses agree on all negotiation points and everything is essentially resolved.
Before you can file, you need to have lived in the state for six months prior to filing. If you or your spouse is a member of the military, members of the armed forces can qualify for residency if he or she is stationed in the state for at least six months, which can include living on a ship or on a federal base within Virginia. If you are stationed outside of the United States, residency can be satisfied by showing you lived in the state for the six months immediately prior to being deployed or assigned to a foreign base.
Filing for Divorce
Once you have confirmed you meet the residency requirements, one spouse will file the complaint for divorce, which includes personal information, discussion on where the spouses are living, military status, residency, grounds for divorce, and more. There are accompanying filing fees that must be paid as well. Once the complaint is filed, it must be served (delivered) to the other spouse, which is typically done by a process server or sheriff.
The Commonwealth of Virginia also requires completion of a VS-4 form. This contains similar information to the complaint and is filed with the county clerk where the divorce is filed. Once the divorce is finalized, the clerk certifies the form and sends it to the State Registrar before the 10th day of the following month from when the final divorce decree was granted.
Once your spouse is served, he or she has 21 days to file their answer with the respective court. If there is no answer filed, then it’s deemed implied consent to the divorce since they waived service of process. The court has the right to enter a divorce by default in this case.
The process varies based on whether it’s a contested or uncontested divorce, which is why it’s important to retain a qualified Leesburg divorce attorney. If you are preparing to file, or have filed, for divorce, contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC to schedule a consultation. Let us guide you through the divorce process and ensure you receive a fair and equitable settlement.