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How Do You File for Divorce in Virginia?

Posted on: May 28, 2018

A divorce is the legal termination of a marriage which severs the relationship between two parties and determines the division of debts and assets. Depending on the exact nature of the marriage, the divorce may be further complicated by matters of child custody, support, or alimony.

In the state of Virginia, a divorce will not be granted unless it has been proven in court and all legal requirements have been met. The highly skilled, award-winning family attorneys at Graham Law Firm, PLLC, are here to assist and guide you as you navigate the divorce process and provide you with information on how to file for divorce in Virginia to help you prepare for what lies ahead.

Residency & Requirements

In order to file for divorce in Virginia, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing. In the complaint, you must list the grounds for the divorce, and, in the case of a no-fault divorce, ensure that the timeline for separation has been met.

What Are Grounds for Divorce?

The grounds for a divorce are the legally accepted reasons to dissolve the marriage, which are divided into two main categories:


Fault-based grounds for divorce must be supported by evidence and documentation that is made available to the court. At-fault grounds include:

  • Adultery, sodomy, or buggery
  • A felony conviction of at least one year and a period of imprisonment
  • Willful desertion or abandonment
  • Cruelty, including the reasonable threat of bodily harm


In a no-fault divorce, the two parties must live apart from one another for a period of one year if there are children under 18 in the marriage, or a period of six months if both parties have entered into a property settlement or separation agreement. In each case, the separation must be uninterrupted with no periods of living together.

Division of Property

A key element in the divorce process is the division of debts and assets between the two parties. Property can be divided into two distinct categories:

Marital Property

All jointly titled property, as well as that which was acquired by either or both parties during the course of the marriage up until the time of separation, is considered marital property. In an effort to divide the marital estate, the court may choose from the following:

  • Dividing the property
  • Ordering a monetary award to one or both parties
  • Instructing that the property be sold
  • Awarding the transfer of jointly titled property to one spouse

In accordance with Virginia’s equitable distribution statute, the court is not obligated to divide the property equally and may consider the following variables:

  • Each party’s contribution, both monetary and non-monetary
  • The length of the marriage
  • How and when the property was acquired
  • The circumstances surrounding the dissolution of the marriage
  • And more

Separate Property

As a general rule, each party will keep their own separate property which was owned prior to the marriage or acquired during the separation period.

Spousal Support in Virginia

The court may consider spousal support in cases where the two parties have been married for a significant amount of time and there is a considerable difference between their incomes. The value and duration of the support are based on a number of factors and may be awarded as a lump payment or in periodic installments.

Custody in Virginia

The best interests of any minor children which were born or adopted into the marriage are at the forefront of every divorce. Custody is awarded based on a number of factors including age, mental and physical health, family history, and more, and may result in one of the following:

  • Joint custody – Both parents share physical and custodial rights, although the distribution may not always be equal.
  • Sole custody – One parent is responsible for making the decisions relating to the child and the other parent may have visitation rights.

Divorce Lawyers in Northern Virginia

If you are looking to file for divorce in the state of Virginia, the family law attorneys at Graham Law can help.

Contact us online to schedule a consultation with a Northern Virginia divorce lawyer today.

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