Obtaining a divorce in Virginia is similar to getting a divorce in most of the states that allow no fault grounds for divorce with a few specific minor differences. Instead of submitting a petition for divorce in Virginia, the spouse initiating the divorce files a Bill of Complaint for Divorce with the clerk of the court in the county with jurisdiction in the case. The spouse responding to the complaint has 21 days to file a formal answer to the bill of complaint.
At any time during the divorce proceedings either spouse can request the court to conduct a Pendente Lite hearing to establish temporary rules concerning who stays in the home, who gets temporary custody of the children and what bills will be paid by whom. Pendente Lite orders in Virginia remain in effect throughout the divorce process until a final decree is issued.
Virginia law requires that the specific grounds for a divorce must be accepted by the court before a divorce decree can be issued. The courts in Virginia allow divorce on these grounds:
- The divorcing parties have lived apart and separate without interruption for at least one year.
- The divorcing parties have no minor children and have lived apart and separate without interruption for at least 6 months.
- One of the parties has committed adultery.
- One of the parties has been convicted of a felony crime and sentenced to at least one year in prison.
- In instances where one party has deserted the other or inflicted cruelty upon them, a divorce can be granted after one year.
The grounds based on living apart are the most commonly cited in Virginia, with the year-long period of separation applied in marriages with children present in order to reduce the number of divorces conceived in haste. If a separated couple begins living together again or resumes relations, the waiting period is reset back to the date of the last cohabitation.
Virginia is an equitable property state and all assets and marital property will be divided according to what the court believes is fair to both parties when you divorce. Each spouse is allowed to retain any separate property they own including:
- Property acquired prior to the marriage.
- Gifts acquired during the marriage.
- Property acquired in trade for separate property.
Factors used by Virginia court to determine how marital property will be divided equitably include:
- How long the marriage has lasted.
- Age and health of both parties.
- Factors leading to the divorce.
- When marital property was acquired.
- The contributions of each party toward the family.
- The debts and liabilities of each individual spouse.
It can pay off later if you can gather all the information you can about the marital and separate property you own before you initiate a divorce. Collecting old purchase receipts, serial numbers and any account details prior to consulting an attorney will save both time and money once you get there.