Minimum Separation Period Before Divorce in Divorce in Virginia

Ever wonder why Brad and Angelina can separate and get a divorce in a couple months, when your divorce seems like it is taking forever? Why is that? There is a minimum separation period before divorce in Virginia.

The answer is simple, all states have different laws for divorce. Virginia laws and Court Systems are more old fashioned and make it almost impossible to receive a divorce in under 12 months.

Under Virginia Law, a person who is a resident of Virginia for more than 6 months may file suit for a divorce for several reasons.

  1. Adultery: which must be proved with specificity.
  2. Sodomy or buggery committed outside of marriage: In today’s practice, I’ve never seen this be a reason for divorce, but it’s still the law.
  3. Where either party is convicted of a felony and confined to prison for more than one year.
  4. Cruelty, apprehension of bodily harm, or abandonment. A divorce can be granted one year after the date of the act.
  5. Living separate and apart for more than one year.

Of these reasons for divorce, only one will allow you to file for divorce immediately: adultery. However, when you file for a divorce based on adultery, you must plead adultery with specificity. Which means in your Complaint for Divorce, you must identify the adulterer with whom your spouse is having an affair, on what dates the affair(s) occurred, and possibly, where the extramarital events occurred. To prove adultery in Court, you must be able to show with a preponderance of evidence that there was actual sexual intercourse between your spouse and a third party. This can be difficult to prove without pictures of the actual act taking place. Also note, that if you cohabitate with your spouse after knowledge of adultery, you cannot pursue a divorce on adultery grounds, since a court may deem you forgave your spouse (condonation).

For cruelty, apprehension of bodily harm, or abandonment, you can file for a divorce directly after the act; however, you must schedule a trial date more than one year after the act for the Court to be able to grant a divorce on these grounds.

Finally, if you are pursuing a no-fault divorce, or in Virginia, what we call divorce based on “living separate and apart” for one year, you can’t file your Complaint for Divorce until the one year separation is complete.

Then, after you file for the divorce, it takes about one year to reach the trial phrase and have the Court issue a divorce decree. So, if you want to pursue a no-fault divorce, and you separate from your husband today, it could take about two years to actually have the divorce granted (if you have to go to a trial and don’t agree to terms earlier).

Why you may ask, do you have to wait so long to even file for divorce, especially, when it takes the Court so long to hear your case? Well the reason is, that in Virginia, the Courts want to give you a “cooling-off” period, time to really think about whether you really want a divorce and a period of time to see if you can reconcile your marriage. That period is one year. If you haven’t reconciled, then you can file for divorce.

One exception, if you have no children and have agreed to all issues: spousal support, equitable distribution, etc. and have entered into a Property Settlement Agreement, then you can file for divorce after only six months of separation.

Thus, in Virginia, you cannot get a quickie divorce, like in California, as Virginia wants you to really contemplate the divorce, make an informed decision, and attempt reconciliation.

If you’re ready to get a divorce, Contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office with one of our Virginia divorce attorneys. We can walk you through the steps to get the most out of your divorce.

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