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Divorce Process in Virginia

Divorce Process in Virginia


Guide to the Divorce Process in Virginia


It's never an easy decision to divorce.  The divorce process in Virginia may seem confusing if you have just begun thinking about divorce or are looking for divorce lawyers.  This guide will give you information on each step of the divorce process in Virginia and explain what each step means in plain English.


Bill of Complaint


You and your spouse may have discussed divorce prior to filing, but the divorce process in Virginia really only begins when one spouse files what is called a “bill of complaint.”  The spouse who initiates divorce proceedings is called the plaintiff, and will file this bill of complaint to specify the grounds for divorce (most commonly the “no-fault” ground of irreconcilable differences).  The plaintiff spouse can also ask for “relief,” which just means something you're asking for in the divorce.  Being able to use your marital home until the conclusion of the divorce would be considered one form of relief, while distribution of property or joint child custody would be others.


Answer and Cross-Bill


After the other spouse has been served with a copy of the bill of complaint, they are allowed to submit an answer and “cross-bill” that effectively puts both spouses on equal footing.  The answer and cross-bill are an important part of the divorce process in Virginia, because these documents can show what the spouses disagree on.


First Hearing


Your first court date will take only fifteen minutes per side at most, and will only determine temporary issues, including child custody and spousal support during the divorce process in Virginia.  Nothing at this hearing will necessarily be permanent in your divorce decree.




The discovery process is basically when each spouse discloses their financial situation.  This part of the divorce process in Virginia can be very complex and time-consuming, and will require extensive documentation of bank records and other financial documents.  For particularly complex divorces, expert witnesses may be needed in order to determine the value of a spouse's assets.




Child custody is actually handled as a separate process during the divorce process in Virginia, and most custody cases will actually be mediated rather than resolved in a courtroom.  This part of the divorce process in Virginia can be particularly difficult for both spouses, but mediation can sometimes be very helpful.  Mediators are trained to seek an equitable solution and help both spouses come to an agreement over child custody that will be in the best interests of the child.  Cases that cannot be resolved by the divorcing spouses and a mediator will be decided in a custody hearing.  


Final Hearing


If your divorce is contested, the final hearing in the divorce process in Virginia will be a trial, where the judge will listen to both sides, including witnesses, and then make a determination about any contested issues.  In an uncontested divorce, where both spouses have been able to reach an agreement about all potentially contested issues in the case, the procedure can be significantly simpler and will not involve a full trial.