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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Virginia Divorce Jurisdiction and Out-of-state Divorce


Each state has its own jurisdiction laws deciding who is eligible to file for divorce in that state. In Virginia, the law requires that divorce cases filed in Virginia family courts meet the residency requirement. To satisfy the residency requirement, at least one spouse must have lived in Virginia for at least the last six months. The spouse that files for divorce (the Petitioner) does not need to reside in Virginia as long as the soon-to-be ex lives in-state. Service members are considered residents and can file for divorce in Virginia if they have been stationed in the state for the last six months.

Virginia residents can file for divorce in the county they last lived in as a couple or a county where either spouse currently resides. For example, suppose a married couple lives together in Leesburg (Loudoun County) for ten years, then separates. The husband rents an apartment in Fairfax (Fairfax County), while the wife spends a year with her sister in Manassas Park (Fauquier County). In this scenario, either party could choose to file for divorce in Loudoun, Fairfax or Fauquier counties.

Can My Ex File for Divorce in Another State? 

Almost every state has a residency requirement to file for divorce. If the separated spouses live in two different states, the residency requirement will be met in at least two states. Both spouses have the option to file for divorce in either of these states, but usually parties find it more convenient to file in their home state. When there are multiple appropriate venues, the first court to receive a divorce petition is granted jurisdiction.

When one party in a divorce lives out of state, the process will be fairly similar to any other divorce proceeding. Service of process may be a little more difficult for non-local parties, as certificate of service laws vary by state. If your ex evades service, you may need to hire a skip-trace process server to have them “served.”

If your ex is currently living in another state, you may want to be the “first to file” so you can file your case in Virginia court. If your divorce is filed in another state, you may have to hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in that state and/or travel for court appearances.

Different states also have different laws which can make a big difference in your divorce case. These laws determine major issues, like how assets are distributed and how child support is calculated, and can vary wildly from state to state. It is important to consider differences in state law when determining in which state to file for divorce.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help 

If you are considering divorce, it is important to speak with a family law attorney right away. An experienced divorce lawyer will be able to advise you on where to file your divorce petition. Contact the skilled attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC in Leesburg, VA for assistance with all your family law issues.




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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!