How to File Divorce in Virginia

How to File Divorce in Virginia

Virginia has a troubling history with marriage and divorce.

As late as the 1950s, Virginia still had an “antimiscegenation” law that made it illegal for different races to marry each other.  

That law was struck down in the famous case of Loving v. Virginia, which was eventually made into a major motion picture.  Of course, now that anyone has the right to get married, many will eventually file for divorce.

If you are considering divorce in Virginia, read up on these laws.


At least one spouse must have been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before either spouse can file for divorce.

Specialty courts

Virginia has Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts in every Virginia city and county.

These are specialized courts with judges that are often more focused on special issues related to families. They are also more aware of the fact that many people getting divorced cannot hire an attorney. This helps divorce proceedings move more smoothly in Virginia than in some other states.  

Another option

Virginia law provides a process called a “divorce from bed and board.”  This is a lot like what many states would call a legal separation.  

The couple is perpetually separated and one spouse will not have any rights to property the other acquired after the decree is granted.  On the other hand, the spouses cannot marry anyone else.

This is sometimes used by couples that do not want to get formally divorced either because of some financial reasons (like marital benefits in a pension) or couples that do not believe in divorce for religious reasons.

Grounds for divorce and property division

Like every other state, Virginia allows no-fault divorces. 

They are a bit more difficult in Virginia than in some other states, though.  The no-fault ground for divorce in Virginia is “living separate and apart.”  Most couples must live separate and apart for one year before a divorce can be granted.  

Couples with a separation agreement and no children can get a divorce after six months.

Living separately while still technically married to another person for a full year or even six months can be very difficult.  

Because of the long requirement for a separation period, fault divorces are somewhat more common in Virginia than other states.  A divorce can be granted for adultery, sodomy, buggery, conviction of a felony, and cruelty.

Issues of fault can also be important in dealing with money and children.

When it comes to dividing property, Virginia law says that a judge must consider the circumstances and factors that led to the dissolution of the marriage, including things like adultery, felony crimes, cruelty, and abandonment.  

Child custody and support

When a household breaks up, the court must help decide where the children should go.

Most commonly, the parents will come up with a custody agreement that a judge will scrutinize and approve.  If the parents cannot agree, then a judge has to step in and decide what is in the best interest of the child.  

Support can also be ordered based on a formula that addresses how much each parent is making and how much time the child spends with each parent.

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