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FAQs About a Virginia Divorce

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With most states allowing couples to divorce on “no-fault” grounds, divorce has become much more prevalent over the last several decades. Divorce and separation have affected us in some way or another, through family members or friends, even before your visit today. We are truly sorry you are going through this process, but we are here to help you – hopefully, you can trust us enough to help you emotionally – not only legally. To help you during this difficult time, we’ve put together some resources and answers to common questions to help you understand what the process of separation and divorce entails in Virginia.

If you are interested in filing for divorce in Virginia, our Fairfax divorce lawyer at Keithley Law can help you navigate the complexities of the legal process while protecting your best interests and rights. With more than 50 years of collective legal experience, we can help you get the best possible outcome and start a new chapter in life.

Question: Can I file for divorce in Virginia?

Answer: To file for divorce in Virginia, you must meet the minimum residency requirements. One of the parties must have been a state resident for at least six months prior to filing a divorce petition.

Generally, where you married doesn’t matter as much, but at least once spouse must have been domiciled (established residency) in Virginia.

Q: How long do I have to wait to obtain my divorce?

Answer: This process can take anywhere from a few months, so long as you meet the waiting period, to years, depending upon whether your spouse decides to contest the divorce.

Q: Can I obtain an annulment, instead of a divorce?

Answer: Maybe, but it is very difficult in Virginia to obtain a legal annulment. Some marriages may be annulled, such as those that were never valid from the outset, including incestuous marriages, marriages entered into when one spouse was legally incompetent, bigamous marriages, and marriages where one spouse did not know the other was a prostitute, had fathered or given birth to a child by someone else right before the marriage or immediately after.

Q: Can my spouse stop my divorce?

Answer: Typically, because Virginia is a no-fault divorce jurisdiction, your spouse cannot stop you from obtaining a divorce; however, your spouse can delay the process. If you properly serve your Complaint, your spouse does not have to consent to your divorce. If your spouse ignores or chooses not to respond to your Complaint for Divorce, you will be able to obtain a Final Divorce Decree, so long as the other elements for obtaining one are met.

Q: What steps are necessary to get a divorce in Virginia?

Answer: To help you obtain your Final Divorce Decree, in which a court orders you and your spouse finally divorced, you’ll need to do a few things:

  1. A Complaint to initiate the divorce (see time periods below) must be filed. This Complaint needs to be served on your spouse.
  2. If your divorce is contested, you and your spouse will need to go to court to divide your assets and property, decide upon visitation and custody if you have children, and you’ll address child support. Also, if you or your spouse is seeking spousal support, evidence will be necessary to decide whether it’s necessary, depending on how and why the marriage ended, the length of the marriage, and other factors pursuant to Virginia law.
  3. To obtain a Final Divorce Decree in an uncontested case, you must provide written or oral testimony, making sure the jurisdiction, notice, and waiting periods are met, and typically, this will involve having a witness present to substantiate these items, but in some cases, you may be able to do it by written affidavit. Your witness will have to be at least 18 years of age, be legally competent and have personal knowledge of the length of your separation and some information regarding your residency.
  4. The judge or law clerk will review the items above and if you’ve satisfied all of the elements, a judge will sign the Final Decree of Divorce.

Q: What are the grounds for divorce in Virginia?

Answer: To initiate divorce, you must have a reason for the divorce, or grounds for divorcing. There are different grounds for divorce in Virginia, but generally, the most common grounds are based on five grounds.

To help spouses avoid filing for divorce without thinking about the consequences of divorcing, the Virginia Legislature implemented waiting periods, also known as “cooling off periods” before courts can finalize divorces.

Here are the following five grounds for divorce in Virginia:

  1. No-fault divorce or separation based on simply living separate and apart for a minimum period, and divorce is based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and no misconduct or fault is alleged. At least one spouse must have intended to live separate and apart for at least six months or one-year, and that intent must have continued to the date of the divorce filing. If you have children under 18, you must wait one-year. If you don’t have children under 18 together, you can file for divorce after six months of living separate and apart, without the intent to resume the marriage (reconcile).
  2. Physical Cruelty: One year from the cruel act, you can seek a final divorce; however, you can file for divorce immediately after the act that constituted cruelty, which must have caused a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, making the marriage intolerable and unsafe. Generally, mental cruelty alone, without any physical cruelty, is insufficient as a reason to divorce, unless it endangered your well-being, either physically or mentally.
  3. Abandonment or Desertion: If your spouse left you, you may be able to seek a divorce based on this desertion or abandonment. It must have been against your wishes, and your spouse must have left you without good cause. For example, if you are guilty of cruelty, your spouse may not be guilty of desertion, and your deserting spouse may be able to seek a divorce based on constructive desertion (and even, cruelty) against you. You can file for a divorce from bed and board (Virginia’s version of a legal separation) immediately after the desertion or abandonment, but the final divorce does not occur until at least one-year from the date of the desertion or abandonment.
  4. Adultery: Generally, you have to be able to prove your spouse engaged in a sexual act with someone else while you were married, and within the last five years, and you did not condone the adultery. Proving adultery, just like proving any other fault-based grounds, depends upon the specific facts and circumstances and based on clear and convincing evidence. You can file for divorce based on adultery immediately, and there is no waiting period for a final divorce.
  5. Felony Conviction: If your spouse earned a felony conviction and was imprisoned for at least one-year, and you did not resume marital relations, you may be able to seek a divorce based on this felony conviction, and divorce is finalized after at least one-year from the felonious act.

For more information about our experienced legal services, contact Keithley Law at (703) 454-5147 today to schedule a consultation.

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