Basics of Getting Divorced in Virginia 

By: John Whitbeck


If you’re contemplating divorce in the state of Virginia, it’s pretty straightforward as far as requirements go. However, it can take months, or even years, especially if the other party contests any aspect of the divorce. Hiring a Virginia family law attorney can be beneficial to help you through the process. Here are some basic things to consider if you plan on getting divorced in the state.

Residency Requirements

Virginia does have a residency requirement for those looking to divorce in the state. Virginia requires that one or both spouses reside in the state for at least six months before filing. Active military members who are stationed in Virginia qualify if they have been there for at least six months, including those who live on a home-ported ship in Virginia and those who reside on a federally controlled base located within the state. Military members who are stationed internationally can qualify if they can prove that they lived in Virginia for the six months preceding the deployment or assignment. Spouses aren’t required to live at the same residence either – they can maintain separate homes within the state to qualify, or one can even live in another state.

Fault versus No-Fault Divorces

Virginia is one of a handful of states that still practices at-fault divorces. With an at-fault divorce, certain criteria must exist before you can file for divorce. These criteria include conditions like adultery or other sexual acts that take place outside of the marriage (notably sodomy or buggery), fear of bodily harm, and more. Virginia also allows for no-fault divorces, but these require that you live apart for at least one year, and there can’t be any interruption. For example, you can’t live apart for nine months, move in for one, and back out again for two months and file. Couples who don’t have minor children and enter into a valid separation agreement can file after six months of living apart.

How Divorces are Handled in the Courts

When you hear the term filing for divorce, the spouse who wants a divorce, known as the plaintiff, will file a complaint with the appropriate court. The complaint will contain specific detailed information about the facts of the marriage, living arrangements, grounds for divorce, etc. The complaint is delivered, legally called “served,” to the other spouse, known as the defendant in the case. A process server or sheriff serves documents; the defendant then has a certain amount of time to file a response, which is called an answer.

Getting divorced in Virginia can be a complicated process, especially in a “fault” divorce. It’s important to retain a skilled Virginia divorce attorney who can help guide you through the process. To learn how our team can help, contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or by emailing clientservices@wblaws.com.

To learn more about divorce, visit our Divorce Law page.

Related: Divorce Law


John Whitbeck

John Whitbeck


John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation.