Virginia Divorce 101

two angry spouses sitting on opposite ends of a couch

People may enter marriage with the best intentions, but sometimes things don’t work out, and married couples turn to divorce. However, this is the case for almost half of all marriages in the United States. Being unhappy in a marriage isn’t good for either party and sometimes divorce is the best option.

When you go through a divorce, complicated legal issues can arise, including how to divide your assets as well as determining child custody. It’s essential to evaluate how specific laws can impact your divorce case. In this guide, we’ve provided you with all the information you need to know when it comes to Virginia’s divorce laws.

Filing For Divorce

To be eligible for divorce, Virginia requires that at least one spouse in the marriage be a resident for six months before the dissolution. If the couple has no children from the marriage, they must be separated for a minimum of six months and have a written property settlement agreement before filing for divorce. However, if a couple has children, they must be separated for a minimum of one year before they can file for divorce.

While you can represent yourself in court, you will have to follow the same procedures as a lawyer. The divorce process can get complicated and confusing, and it is strongly recommended that you hire an experienced family law attorney to assist you in your divorce.

Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

There are two types of divorce in Virginia - divorce from bed and board (a mensa et thoro) and divorce from the bond of matrimony (a vinculo matrimonii).

A divorce from bed and board is a partial divorce that allows the couple to legally separate from each other; however, they are not permitted to remarry. A divorce from the bonds of matrimony is complete and absolute. For couples who have been granted a divorce from bed and board, can ask the Court to “merge” the decree into a divorce from the bond of matrimony if they have been separated for at least one year.

In order to file for divorce, Virginia requires that there must be a reason for the divorce, known as grounds for divorce. Even if the couple agrees to end the marriage, grounds must exist and be proven. Divorce from bed and board and divorce from the bond of matrimony require different grounds.

The grounds for a divorce from bed and board include:

  • Willful desertion or abandonment
  • Cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm

The grounds for a divorce from the bond of matrimony include:

  • Separation divorce (AKA a “no-fault” divorce)
  • Adultery, sodomy, or buggery
  • Conviction of a felony

Property Division

In Virginia, the property can be divided in two ways - marital property and separate property. Marital property is property acquired or earned during the couple’s marriage, or property acquired before the marriage that was used for the benefit of the marriage or shared with the other spouse. Separate property is any property that belonged to one spouse prior to the marriage, or it was given as a gift or an inheritance to the only spouse during the marriage.

Property that can be divided includes:

  • Real estate
  • Jewelry
  • Income
  • Benefits
  • Debt acquired

Spousal Support

In Virginia, spouses may claim spousal support in a divorce. Spousal support is a payment from one spouse to the other that helps the recipient maintain a similar lifestyle that they had during the marriage. Spousal support is determined separately from property division.

There are a few factors Virginia courts will consider when deciding if spousal support will be granted and how much spousal support will have to be paid. Courts will look at how much property each spouse was given during the dividing of assets. Additionally, the court will look at if the divorce is fault based. If it was dissolved on the grounds of fault, the spouse who was at fault could potentially pay a higher amount of money. If infidelity caused the divorce, the spouse who remained faithful will usually not have to pay any support.

Child Custody

Virginia child custody laws allow joint legal and physical custody and sole custody. Joint legal custody allows both parents to be responsible for the child as well as make decisions for the child. In joint physical custody, the child resides with both parents. Sole custody allows only one parent to retain the responsibility of the child and has primary authority when it comes to making decisions regarding the care of the child.

Parents can make their own custody agreement, but if both parents cannot agree on the terms, they will need to get a court order to determine custody. When a court determines custody, they will look at all the factors in the child’s current situation before deciding which parent to award custody to. The most important thing the court will look at is what will be in the child’s best interest.

For more information about how child custody is determined, read our last blog post here! (Link to supporting content about child custody will be linked here)

Additionally, spouses have the option of reaching a voluntary agreement that resolves any concerns that were raised in the divorce. In this situation, the court will not make any decisions about the division of property, spousal support, child custody, or child support. Instead, parties involved can sign a Property Settlement Agreement. The court will enforce this once it is in writing, signed, sworn by both properties, and notarized.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

The right attorney makes all the difference when it comes to your divorce case. The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller is here to provide you with knowledgeable legal advice and representation. We are here for you in your time of need. We are dedicated to ensuring you are well-informed and prepared for all aspects of your case. Let us help you.

Call our firm today at (757) 267-4949 for a free consultation regarding your case.


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