Virginia Divorce

Virginia Divorce

Going through a Virginia divorce is very difficult mentally, emotionally, and financially.  The advice of an experienced Virginia divorce attorney is extremely important to get through this process and to reduce the stress and uncertainty that comes with a Virginia divorce.

As your Virginia divorce attorney, our firm understands both the law and the personal aspects of a Virginia divorce.  Our Virginia law firm can provide legal advice even before the Virginia divorce proceedings begin.  Being prepared in advance for a Virginia divorce can make  a difference.  We can advice you and assist you with your strategy for preparing for your Virginia divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support and property distribution issues.  We can also assist you in preparing a separation agreement in order to facilitate an uncontested divorce.

After making the decision to file for divorce in Virginia and whether to file based on Virginia divorce grounds, there are still many questions that require the guidance of a competent Virginia divorce attorney.  Where will the children live?  What will happen to the property obtain prior to, during, or after the separation?  What are Virginia divorce laws regarding retirement benefits?  Do the rules change when dealing with military retirement?

The commencement of a suit for divorce in Virginia is purely governed by statute.

§ 20-99. How such suits instituted and conducted; costs.

Such suit shall be instituted and conducted as other suits in equity, except as otherwise provided in this section:

1. No divorce, annulment, or affirmation of a marriage shall be granted on the uncorroborated testimony of the parties or either of them.

2. Whether the defendant answers or not, the cause shall be heard independently of the admissions of either party in the pleadings or otherwise.

3. Process or notice in such proceedings shall be served in this Commonwealth by any of the methods prescribed in § 8.01-296 by any person authorized to serve process under § 8.01-293. Service may be made on a nonresident by any of the methods prescribed in § 8.01-296 by any person authorized to serve process under § 8.01-320.

4. In cases where such suits have been commenced and an appearance has been made on behalf of the defendant by counsel, then notices to take depositions and of hearings, motions, and other proceedings except contempt proceedings, may be served by delivering or mailing a copy to counsel for opposing party, the foot of such notices bearing either acceptance of service or a certificate of counsel in compliance with the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. “Counsel for opposing party” shall include a pro se party who (i) has entered a general appearance in person or by filing a pleading or endorsing an order of withdrawal of that party’s counsel, or (ii) has signed a pleading in the case or who has notified the other parties and the clerk that he appears in the case.

5. Costs may be awarded to either party as equity and justice may require.

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After the divorce suit is filed in Virginia, the plaintiff (the person who filed the Virginia divorce lawsuit)  is responsible for service of process on the other spouse.  Just like the filing of the Virginia divorce suit, service of process is governed by statute. Just as with any suit in Virginia, service of process for a divorce lawsuit may be accomplished through personal service, substituted service, or posted service.  Additionally, for a Virginia divorce, the party being served may choose to voluntarily accept service of the divorce process.

§ 20-99.1:1. How defendant may accept service; waive service.

A. A defendant in such suits may accept service of process by signing the proof of service before any officer authorized to administer oaths. This proof of service shall, when filed with the papers in the suit, have the same effect as if it had been served upon the defendant by a person authorized to serve process. In addition, service of process may be accepted or waived by any party, upon voluntary execution of a notarized writing specifying an intent to accept or waive any particular process, or by a defendant by filing an answer in the suit. Such notarized writing may be provided in the clerk’s office of any circuit court and may be signed by such party to the proceedings before any clerk or deputy clerk of any circuit court, under oath, or may be drafted and filed by counsel in the proceeding, and shall, when filed with the papers in the suit, have the same effect as if the process specified had been personally served upon the defendant by a person authorized to serve process. The court may enter any order or decree without further notice unless a defendant has filed an answer in the suit.

B. When service is accepted pursuant to this section by a nonresident person out of the Commonwealth, such service shall have the same effect as an order of publication duly executed.

C. Any process served outside the Commonwealth executed in such manner as provided for in this section is validated.

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Virginia divorce law states that to file for divorce in Virginia, you must have divorce grounds.  Grounds include mental cruelty, physical cruelty and physical abuse, adultery, desertion, and one years’ separation (also known as no fault divorce in Virginia).  However, different grounds for divorce in Virginia have different standards of prove.  For example, to file for a Virginia divorce based on grounds of adultery requires specific pleadings, unlike in other situations, notice pleading is not enough.  Additionally, since Virginia still considers adultery a crime (although criminal prosecution is almost unheard of), during a Virginia divorce proceeding, allegations of adultery are subject to a heightened standard of proof.  A Virginia divorce lawyer from our firm can explain the details of you are considering a Virginia divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Similarly, other divorce grounds require specific proof.  To obtain a Virginia divorce on the grounds of cruelty requires proof of some overt physical act.  Not getting along is simply not enough and in some courts, the concept of “mental cruelty” is treated like an illusion.

Virginia divorce grounds have been codified by statute.  The general divorce statute states:

§ 20-91. Grounds for divorce from bond of matrimony; contents of decree.

A. A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be decreed:

(1) For adultery; or for sodomy or buggery committed outside the marriage;

(2) —Repealed.]

(3) Where either of the parties subsequent to the marriage has been convicted of a felony, sentenced to confinement for more than one year and confined for such felony subsequent to such conviction, and cohabitation has not been resumed after knowledge of such confinement (in which case no pardon granted to the party so sentenced shall restore such party to his or her conjugal rights);

(4), (5) —Repealed.]

(6) Where either party has been guilty of cruelty, caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willfully deserted or abandoned the other, such divorce may be decreed to the innocent party after a period of one year from the date of such act; or

(7), (8) —Repealed.]

(9) (a) On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. In any case where the parties have entered into a separation agreement and there are no minor children either born of the parties, born of either party and adopted by the other or adopted by both parties, a divorce may be decreed on application if and when the husband and wife have lived separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months. A plea of res adjudicata or of recrimination with respect to any other provision of this section shall not be a bar to either party obtaining a divorce on this ground; nor shall it be a bar that either party has been adjudged insane, either before or after such separation has commenced, but at the expiration of one year or six months, whichever is applicable, from the commencement of such separation, the grounds for divorce shall be deemed to be complete, and the committee of the insane defendant, if there be one, shall be made a party to the cause, or if there be no committee, then the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the insane defendant.

(b) This subdivision (9) shall apply whether the separation commenced prior to its enactment or shall commence thereafter. Where otherwise valid, any decree of divorce hereinbefore entered by any court having equity jurisdiction pursuant to this subdivision (9), not appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, is hereby declared valid according to the terms of said decree notwithstanding the insanity of a party thereto.

(c) A decree of divorce granted pursuant to this subdivision (9) shall in no way lessen any obligation any party may otherwise have to support the spouse unless such party shall prove that there exists in the favor of such party some other ground of divorce under this section or § 20-95.

B. A decree of divorce shall include each party’s social security number, or other control number issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to § 46.2-342.

However, just like there are grounds for divorce in Virginia, there are defenses against these grounds.  For example, marital cohabitation after knowledge of adultery (known as “condonation”) bars the granting of a divorce based on adultery grounds.  Connivance and recrimination are also possible defenses against a divorce suit in Virginia.  The following statute is extremely important when considering these defenses:

§ 20-94. Effect of cohabitation after knowledge of adultery, sodomy or buggery; lapse of five years.

When the suit is for divorce for adultery, sodomy, or buggery, the divorce shall not be granted, if it appear that the parties voluntarily cohabited after the knowledge of the fact of adultery, sodomy or buggery, or that it occurred more than five years before the institution of the suit, or that it was committed by the procurement or connivance of the party alleging such act.

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Perhaps the question that people ask the most is: How do I obtain immediate legal relief when I can’t obtain a Virginia divorce prior to being separated for over a year?  Our Virginia divorce lawyers can guide you through the divorce proceedings, including what is called a Pendente Lite hearing.  During this hearing, a Virginia judge can make preliminary rulings temporarily resolving important issues such as exclusive possession of the marital home (who has to move out), temporary child custody, temporary child support, temporary spousal support or alimony, non-dissipation of assets (to keep your spouse from emptying the bank accounts, selling, or hiding property while the divorce case is pending.  The Pendente Lite statute highlights the Court’s powers when granting temporary relief in Virginia.

§ 20-103. Court may make orders pending suit for divorce, custody or visitation, etc.

A. In suits for divorce, annulment and separate maintenance, and in proceedings arising under subdivision A 3 or subsection L of § 16.1-241, the court having jurisdiction of the matter may, at any time pending a suit pursuant to this chapter, in the discretion of such court, make any order that may be proper (i) to compel a spouse to pay any sums necessary for the maintenance and support of the petitioning spouse, including an order that the other spouse provide health care coverage for the petitioning spouse, unless it is shown that such coverage cannot be obtained, (ii) to enable such spouse to carry on the suit, (iii) to prevent either spouse from imposing any restraint on the personal liberty of the other spouse, (iv) to provide for the custody and maintenance of the minor children of the parties, including an order that either party provide health care coverage for the children, (v) to provide support, calculated in accordance with § 20-108.2, for any child of the parties to whom a duty of support is owed and to continue to support any child over the age of 18 who meets the requirements set forth in subsection C of § 20-124.2, (vi) for the exclusive use and possession of the family residence during the pendency of the suit, (vii) to preserve the estate of either spouse, so that it be forthcoming to meet any decree which may be made in the suit, or (viii) to compel either spouse to give security to abide such decree. The parties to any petition where a child whose custody, visitation, or support is contested shall show proof that they have attended within the 12 months prior to their court appearance or that they shall attend within 45 days thereafter an educational seminar or other like program conducted by a qualified person or organization approved by the court except that the court may require the parties to attend such seminar or program in uncontested cases only if the court finds good cause. The seminar or other program shall be a minimum of four hours in length and shall address the effects of separation or divorce on children, parenting responsibilities, options for conflict resolution and financial responsibilities. Once a party has completed one educational seminar or other like program, the required completion of additional programs shall be at the court’s discretion. Parties under this section shall include natural or adoptive parents of the child, or any person with a legitimate interest as defined in § 20-124.1. The fee charged a party for participation in such program shall be based on the party’s ability to pay; however, no fee in excess of $50 may be charged. Whenever possible, before participating in mediation or alternative dispute resolution to address custody, visitation or support, each party shall have attended the educational seminar or other like program. The court may grant an exemption from attendance of such program for good cause shown or if there is no program reasonably available. Other than statements or admissions by a party admitting criminal activity or child abuse, no statement or admission by a party in such seminar or program shall be admissible into evidence in any subsequent proceeding.

B. In addition to the terms provided in subsection A, upon a showing by a party of reasonable apprehension of physical harm to that party by such party’s family or household member as that term is defined in § 16.1-228, and consistent with rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the court may enter an order excluding that party’s family or household member from the jointly owned or jointly rented family dwelling. In any case where an order is entered under this paragraph, pursuant to an ex parte hearing, the order shall not exclude a family or household member from the family dwelling for a period in excess of 15 days from the date the order is served, in person, upon the person so excluded. The order may provide for an extension of time beyond the 15 days, to become effective automatically. The person served may at any time file a written motion in the clerk’s office requesting a hearing to dissolve or modify the order. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the court from extending an order entered under this subsection for such longer period of time as is deemed appropriate, after a hearing on notice to the parties. If the party subject to the order fails to appear at this hearing, the court may extend the order for a period not to exceed six months.

C. In cases other than those for divorce in which a custody or visitation arrangement for a minor child is sought, the court may enter an order providing for custody, visitation or maintenance pending the suit as provided in subsection A. The order shall be directed to either parent or any person with a legitimate interest who is a party to the suit.

D. Orders entered pursuant to this section which provide for custody or visitation arrangements pending the suit shall be made in accordance with the standards set out in Chapter 6.1 (§ 20-124.1 et seq.) of this title. Orders entered pursuant to subsection B shall be certified by the clerk and forwarded as soon as possible to the local police department or sheriff’s office which shall, on the date of receipt, enter the name of the person subject to the order and other appropriate information required by the Department of State Police into the Virginia crime information network system established and maintained by the Department of State Police pursuant to Chapter 2 (§ 52-12 et seq.) of Title 52. If the order is later dissolved or modified, a copy of the dissolution or modification shall also be certified, forwarded and entered in the system as described above.

E. An order entered pursuant to this section shall have no presumptive effect and shall not be determinative when adjudicating the underlying cause.

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A Virginia divorce lawyer with our practice is also a tough, fair, and skilled negotiator.  As such, we can assist you in preparing and negotiating a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.  This agreement, if properly drafted with all the essential contents, may convert your divorce from contested to uncontested.  When this happens, the divorce can usually be finalized without the need for litigation and in a manner in which both spouses know up front what will happen to the custody of their children, their support needs, and the distribution of their property.

A Virginia divorce lawyer will provide you with Virginia divorce advice to reduce the difficulties and uncertainties associated with the Virginia divorce process.

Contact a Virginia divorce lawyer.

Virginia (VA) criminal defense, divorce, child custody, reckless driving, dui and federal court attorneyrepresenting clients throughout Virginia. Some of the jurisdictions served include:Henrico County VA, Richmond City, Chesterfield County VA, Hanover County VA, Petersburg County VA, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Hopewell, Petersburg, Dinwiddie, Quantico, Virginia Beach VA, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania VA, Hampton Roads, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, Amelia, Powhatan, Goochland, Louisa, Manassas VA, Woodbridge, Charles City, James City, Gloucester, Tidewater, Portsmouth, Shenandoah, Prince George, Sussex, New Kent, West End of Richmond, Glen Allen, Federal Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond, Alexandria, Norfolk, and Newport News Divisions).

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