The odds of divorce for married couples in the U.S. are approximately 50 percent. Surprisingly, with such a high rate of divorce, most people still don’t have a good understanding of divorce laws.

Divorce laws vary from state to state, which complicates things even further. We’ve put together this guide to help you sort through the confusing legalese and give you an overview of how divorce works in Virginia.

Types of Divorce in Virginia

The first thing to know is that one party must have legally resided in Virginia for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.

The next important thing to understand is that there are two types of divorce in Virginia; a divorce from bed and board and a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

In a divorce from bed and board, the couple legally separates but they are not allowed to remarry. This type of divorce allows separated couples to maintain some of the benefits of marriage, such as remaining on their spouse’s health insurance.

A divorce from the bonds of matrimony is divorce in the traditional sense. This type of divorce is also referred to as a complete or absolute divorce.

Grounds for Divorce

You must have grounds for divorce in the state of Virginia. The following are the different court accepted grounds for divorce based on the type of divorce:

Grounds for a bed and board divorce:

  • Cruelty
  • Reasonable apprehension of bodily harm
  • Willful desertion or abandonment

Grounds for a divorce from the bond of matrimony:

  • Separation: This is the only type of no-fault divorce in Virginia. To qualify a couple with no children must not have cohabitated for at least 6 months and a couple with children must have been separated for over 1 year prior to filing for divorce.
  • Adultery: If one of the spouses committed adultery, the other may file for divorce. Additionally, after knowledge of the infidelity, both spouses can’t live together voluntarily. After learning this violation, the spouse must file for divorce within five years.
  • Felony Conviction: If one of the spouses committed a felony leading to over one year of imprisonment, the other spouse is free to file for divorce.
  • Cruelty: Abandonment and bodily harm among other cruel actions are treated the same in Virginia so a spouse may file for divorce in the case of such acts.

Separation Agreement

Separation Agreements are not required, but they are certainly advisable. The purpose of a Separation Agreement is to provide a structured, enforceable “contract” between the parties or “ground rules” to bridge the gap, so to speak, between the time the parties actually separate and the time they are permitted under the law to file the divorce.

A Separation Agreement is required, however, when there are no minor children and the parties want to proceed under the six-month exception provision.
Parties who are able to come to terms of agreement and enter a Separation Agreement usually will proceed with an uncontested divorce when the separation period runs, which is certainly cheaper and less stressful for all involved.

There are instances where the parties enter into a Separation Agreement on every issue but one or two, like spousal support or how to split the equity from selling the house. In those contested divorce cases, the separation agreement will still result in a significant reduction in the costs of the contested divorce trial which would only address and resolve those last couple of issues.

Separation agreements can become quite complicated, so it is advisable to seek the services of a reputable divorce lawyer.

The following issues are covered in the proposed separation agreement in Virginia:

  • Property and asset division between spouses
  • How retirement benefits will be shared
  • Debt settlement plan
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • A visitation schedule specifying when the spouses and children can see each other
  • Life insurance – including individuals to be insured, the beneficiaries, and the amount
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Spousal Support
  • Attorney and court cost payments

Divorce Proceedings: Uncontested vs Contested

The length of time it takes to complete the process of divorce largely depends on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

In an uncontested divorce, where the couple has been living apart for either over 6 months without children or over one year with children, and a signed property settlement agreement exists, a divorce can be completed quickly. A judge typically takes 1-3 months before finalizing an uncontested divorce.

A contested divorce takes significantly longer due to the lack of agreement between the parties. The process takes approximately 18 months. If neither spouse appeals, this type of divorce solidifies 30 days after the final decree is signed by a judge.

Still Have Questions? Garrett Law Group,PLC is Here to Help!

Divorce can easily become a complicated process. Having an experienced family law attorney guide you through it will help you avoid costly mistakes and give you peace of mind.
Contact Garrett Law Group, PLC for a FREE consultation at 757-422-4646 now!