A brief guide to divorce in Virginia
Married couples considering separation in Virginia should be aware of the following things:
Virginia state divorce laws
At least one person in the marriage must have been a resident of the state for six months before a petition for divorce in Virginia can be filed.
Grounds for divorce
Aside from cases of no-fault divorce, the following are legitimate bases for at-fault divorce:
• Being convicted of a felony and/or being imprisoned for a year or longer
• Physical or emotional cruelty, abandonment or causing a spouse to fear for their safety are all grounds for at-fault divorce in Virginia. These kinds of divorces will be approved one year after the last commission of any such acts.
While there is no document known as “legal separation” in the state, couples who are not yet willing to commit to divorce in Virginia may enter into a property settlement agreement resolving the same issues that would be disputed in divorce proceedings.
Types of divorce
Couples who can agree on the terms of their separation will enter the court system with an uncontested divorce. If one party does not agree to divorce in Virginia or both spouses cannot reach a mutually acceptable settlement regarding child custody, alimony and other related concerns, a court date with a judge will be scheduled to resolve this kind of contested divorce.
No fault divorce
Couples who wish to apply for a no fault divorce in Virginia must live apart for at least one year before they can apply for this kind of separation. It is not necessary for either spouse to be guilty of any wrongdoing for this sort of divorce to be approved.
Steps in the divorce process
The first step taken to begin the process of divorce in Virginia is for a plaintiff to file a petition with the local district family court. The other spouse will be served with the complaint and have 21 days to respond if they so wish. They may also choose to sign a waiver to accelerate the process. If the couple cannot agree on the terms of their separation during court-supervised negotiations, a judge will issue legally binding rulings considering alimony, child support and related concerns.
Judges take many factors into consideration when awarding temporary or permanent alimony, including:
• The length of the marriage
• Property belonging to both spouses
• The tax consequences for both spouses of any alimony awarded
• Each party’s earning capabilities
• Any conditions that would make it important for the person seeking alimony not to work outside of the home, such as taking care of a child
Judges are permitted to take any information they consider relevant into account when awarding child support, including:
• Both parents’ education level and earning capabilities
• Any financial resources the child may have
• The standard of living the child experienced during the marriage
Fathers’ and mothers’ rights
Judges are similarly free to take any factors other than gender into consideration when resolving child custody issues.