VIRGINIA DIVORCE LAW

If you are contemplating a divorce in Virginia you should become familiar with the state laws and divorce process. Obtaining a divorce in Virginia will legally end your marriage; you and your ex-spouse will be considered single and will be able to re-marry. It is important to contact a Virginia divorce attorney for further advice.

Legal Separation

Virginia does not have what is known as “legal separation.” However, Virginia courts will recognize and consider “separation agreements” in adjudicating divorce suits, whether as a precursor to divorce or as a separate entity. The separation agreement will not prevent you or your spouse from filing for divorce later on.

Grounds For Divorce

When filing for divorce in Virginia you will need to state reasons, also known as “grounds,” for divorce. Virginia has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.

Fault Grounds: Virginia fault-based grounds include: adultery, sodomy committed outside the marriage, a felony conviction, and sentencing to confinement for more than one year during the marriage and failure to return to cohabitation after that year. Cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, and willful desertion or abandonment, are also grounds for fault-based divorce, but only when at least one year has passed from the date of the act itself.

No-Fault Grounds: Divorce will also be granted, without fault attributed to a spouse, when the parties have lived separate and apart, without any interruption, for one year. Where separation agreements exist and no minor children are party to the divorce, a divorce may be granted upon only six months of living separate and apart. You should contact a Virginia divorce attorney to discuss your options.

Divorce Residency Requirements

To properly file for a divorce or annulment in Virginia one of the parties to the divorce / annulment must have been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before the suit is filed. The Virginia Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over all annulment and divorce lawsuits, along with claims for separate maintenance. Judges automatically hear the suits as “equitable claims.”

Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures

When the grounds for divorce are willful desertion or abandonment, there is no requirement to allege or prove an offer of reconciliation. When there are no specific alleged grounds (in other words, an uncontested, “no-fault” divorce), then the divorce is much more likely to proceed through the system quickly and smoothly. If both parties can work together on most of their issues, especially those concerning property and children, they may experience a smoother divorce process. However, these agreements are not necessarily binding and the court is free to alter them.

Annulment

An annulment is a court declaration that the marriage is legally void or voidable. The Virginia court will decree that the marriage was never valid to begin with; thus, there is no need to seek a divorce. In Virginia, a court may grant an annulment for reasons including: fraud, duress, incurable impotency at the time of the marriage, undisclosed prior felony conviction, undisclosed extramarital pregnancy or undisclosed extramarital child born within 10 months of the marriage, and either party’s having been a prostitute before marriage (also undisclosed at the time of the marriage contract).

Equitable Division of Marital Property

Virginia is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that the marital property will be distributed on terms considered by the court to be “equal.” However, equal does not always mean the distribution will be 50/50. In making an equitable distribution the Virginia courts will consider a non-exhaustive list of factors in the corresponding Virginia statute including: contributions of each spouse to the marital estate; the total value of the property of the parties; the economic circumstances of each party, any misconduct that may have occurred, and the amount of spousal support awarded. Income received from “separate property” during the marriage is separate property if it is not attributable to the personal effort of either party and will not be included in marital property. Separate property includes: (i) all property, real and personal, acquired by either party before the marriage; (ii) all property acquired during the marriage by bequest, devise, descent, survivorship or gift from a source other than the other party; (iii) all property acquired during the marriage in exchange for or from the proceeds of the sale of separate property, provided that such property acquired during the marriage is maintained as separate property; and (iv) that part of any property classified as separate pursuant to subdivision The distribution of marital property is determined by the court and can be a confusing process. It is advisable to consult a Virginia divorce attorney.

Links to Divorce Statutes

  1. Code of Virginia, Title 20 – Domestic Relations
  2. Virginia Legal Separation / Separation Agreement
  3. Virginia Grounds for Divorce – Fault and No-Fault
  4. Virginia Divorce / Annulment Residency Requirements
  5. Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures in Virginia
  6. Virginia Annulment
  7. Virginia Equitable Division of Marital Property
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