Virginia Divorce

By WomansDivorce Editors 

This is an informational resource on Virginia divorce. You can look over the relevant VA divorce laws, locate skilled lawyers and mediators, access downloadable divorce forms or services to prepare your paperwork online, and use the official child support guidelines worksheet to find out the level of support which may be awarded. We also have more information about general divorce topics, as well as tips for dealing with your emotions and ideas for starting over in our divorce articles section

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Divorce Lawyers

Livesay & Myers, P.C.
3975 University Dr #325
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 865-4746
Livesay and Myers Services

Cole Miller PLLC
1945 Old Gallows Road, Ste. 205
Vienna, VA 22182
Areas Served: Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, Prince William County
Phone: 703-883-3707

Need a Local Divorce Attorney? With this service, you can describe your divorce case and find local attorneys willing to help you.


Graine Mediation
Robin Graine, JD, CDFA
11325 Random Hills Road, Suite 360
Fairfax, VA 22030
Areas Served: Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington, Alexandria, Stafford
Phone: 571-220-1998
Since starting her legal career in 1989, Robin Graine has advocated for the use of divorce mediation as a sensible alternative to divorce litigation. Mediation enables couples to find their own mutually acceptable solutions to their disputes. Her experience as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst also helps people understand how the financial decisions they make during negotiations can impact their future finances. Robin’s passion is helping people become their strongest selves while avoiding stressful and unhealthy litigation and helping people smoothly transition through the next stages in their lives.

Northern VA Mediation Service
Family Mediation; Civil Court Mediation; Commercial & Workplace
9653 Fairfax Blvd, Suite 203  
Fairfax, VA 22031
Phone: 703-865-7272
Northern VA Mediation Service (NVMS) provides mediation services to individuals, groups and organizations. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that encourages people to work out their disputes with one another and develop solutions they will find equally acceptable. NVMS also offers training to individuals and professionals who are interested in becoming certified mediators or who are interested in learning more about mediation and other alternative dispute resolution processes.

Online Divorce

Get all of the properly completed documents needed to file for an uncontested divorce without having to use a lawyer! This services helps you easily prepare your divorce papers by using question and answer technology to help customize your paperwork to your circumstances. Everything will be correct for your court system and you'll get detailed instructions on how to file the papers. You'll also be able to access a large number of downloadable books discussing many divorce topics. And if you need it, they offer customer support by email & phone. Get your uncontested Virginia divorce started today.

Parenting Classes

Classes for Separating or Divorcing Parents in VA - Parents involved in family law cases concerning custody issues and divorce are required to take classes that help parents realize the possible effect of divorce on children and learn ways to reduce the impact. Call 804-786-6455 for more information on court approved parenting classes. Or visit Virginia's Judicial system page to look up classes for each district court. 

Divorce Seminars

For over 18 years, this seminar has been offered as a low-cost, "women only" divorce resource designed to show women facing divorce what they need to prepare for, while outlining many of the local resources available to them and their children. These seminars are offered once a month in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Newport News from 8:30 am until 12 noon. A 60 page manual is provided to each participant along with information about Military divorces and Domestic Violence resources. Find out more about the seminars on the events calendar at Hofheimer Family Law

Virginia Domestic Violence Resources

VA Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance 

Virginia Divorce Book

"What every Woman should know about divorce" is a really excellent book on the basics of divorce in Virginia. Written by Charles R. Hofheimer, this free book offers valuable information about separation (and the guidelines for separation under the same roof), the importance of determining grounds for divorce, as well as the different types of custody and the cardinal rules of custody that you should observe. If you're thinking about, or going through a divorce, then you owe it to yourself to get this free book.

Virginia Divorce Law

What are the residency requirements for divorce in VA? - To get a divorce or annulment in Virginia, at least one of the spouses needs to have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing. If either or both spouses are enlisted in the military and have been stationed in the state for at least six months, they will meet the residency requirement whether they are deployed or on base. (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-97)

When can a marriage be annulled? An annulment is a decree that the marriage is void or voidable, meaning it was never legal in the first place. To qualify for an annulment, it must be found that:

  • the marriage was entered into because of coercion or fraud,
  • one of the spouses was still married to someone else,
  • the marriage is between an ancestor and descendant or between siblings,
  • the marriage is between an aunt or uncle and a niece or nephew.
  • either party lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage due to mental infirmity,
  • either party was under the age of 18 and were not emancipated, unless the marriage was legally entered into in another state or country,
  • impotency existed at the time of the marriage,
  • either party was convicted of a felony prior to the marriage and didn't disclose it to the other party,
  • either spouse at the time of the marriage was with child by a person other than their spouse and this fact was not disclosed at the time of the marriage, or
  • if either spouse prior to the marriage, without the knowledge of the other, was a prostitute.

An annulment won't be granted if the party who applied for the annulment willingly lived with the other party before the marriage after becoming aware of the situation being claimed as grounds for an annulment.  (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-89.1)

Is a period of separation required in Virginia before a divorce can be filed? - To get a divorce in Virginia, you must be separated from your spouse for least a year before filing for a no fault divorce if you have minor children. This time period is reduced to six months if you don’t have minor children and have a signed separation agreement. Simply signing a separation agreement doesn't mean you are actually separated; you need to have stopped co-habituating with the intent that the marriage is over.

Is there more than one type of divorce? - There are two types of divorce in Virginia: divorce from the bond of matrimony and divorce from bed and board.

A divorce from bed and board does not dissolve the marriage, but rather recognizes that the couple are perpetually separated and allows the marital estate to be divided and issues concerning the minor children to be settled. Under a divorce from bed and board, neither is permitted to remarry during the life of the other spouse unless they seek a divorce from the bond of matrimony. Also, a divorce from bed and board is only allowed in fault-based divorce proceedings based on cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, or willful desertion. The advantage of a divorce from bed and board is that it requires no waiting period before it will be granted.

A divorce from the bond of matrimony is a complete and absolute divorce.  A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be granted based on no-fault or fault grounds. Generally, a divorce from the bond of matrimony requires a separation period of six months if the couple has no children, or 12 months if they have minor children before a divorce will be decreed. The only exception is if the ground being claimed for divorce are felony conviction (and being court-ordered to serve at least a year of confinement) or for adultery, sodomy or buggery outside of marriage (which all must be proven).

If a divorce from bed and board is granted, either spouse may ask the Court to merge the decree into a divorce from the bonds of matrimony if they have not cohabitated and remained separated for at least one year.

What are the grounds for divorce in Virginia?  The grounds for divorce include:

  • Adultery (sexual relations with someone other than your spouse), sodomy (with someone other than your spouse), or buggery (sexual acts against nature). Clear and convincing evidence is required to claim any of these;
  • Conviction of a felony;
  • Willful abandonment or desertion (a separation with mutual consent is not considered abandonment);
  • Cruelty endangering the mental or physical health of the spouse seeking the divorce;
  • Separation for a least a year in which the couple has lived separate and apart without cohabitation. This timeframe is reduced to six months if the couple has entered into a separation agreement and there are no minor children.   (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-91)

How are assets and debts divided? Virginia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the assets and debts will be divided in a fair and equitable manner. Only property acquired during the marriage or that which is titled in both spouses names is subject to division. Separate property not subject to division includes property owned prior to the marriage, property and assets acquired in an inheritance which are kept separate, assets that were given as a gift from a third party, or assets acquired after the spouses have separated.

Some separate property may be considered comingled if the other spouse's name was added to the property after the marriage or if separate property was sold and the proceeds were comingled with marital property. Some property is considered hybrid property, which is part marital and part separate property. For example, the increase in the value of a retirement account that occurred during the marriage would be considered marital property, while the value of the retirement account prior to the marriage would be considered separate property.

Debt likewise is considered a marital debt if it arose during the marriage (even if it is only under one spouse's name), as well as debt listed under both spouses names. If a debt was incurred by one spouse during the marriage for a non-marital purpose (for example, possibly due to an affair), the court may designate the entire debt as separate or a portion of the debt as marital and a portion of the debt as separate. Other liabities considered as separate debts are those incurred before the marriage or after the date the spouses separated.

Pensions and retirement benefits accrued during the marriage may also be subject to division. However, neither party may receive more than half the value of the other party's pension or retirement plan that accumulated during the marriage. The court may order direct payment of such percentage of the marital share by direct assignment to a spouse from the employer trustee, plan administrator or other holder of the benefits. 

If the parties cannot reach an agreement on the division of the marital estate, the court will use the following factors in the equitable division of assets and debts:

  • the duration of the marriage,
  • the ages and physical and mental condition of the parties,
  • the contributions of each spouse, both monetary and nonmonetary, to the well-being of the family and in the acquisition and care and maintenance of the marital property,
  • the tax consequences of each party,
  • the liabilities of each party and whether certain property serves as security for such debts,
  • whether property was dissipated in anticipation of the divorce,
  • the circumstances contributing the the dissolution of the marriage,
  • any other factors as the court deems relevant.

In equitably dividing the marital estate, the courts may divide the marital property, order the property sold, order a monetary award to one of the parties, or transfer jointly-titled marital property to one of the spouses. The courts may also divide responsibility for marital debts. It is important to remember that creditors are not bound by a divorce decree, which means both spouse remain jointly liable for the debt until the debt is repaid.  (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-107.3)

Who is eligible for spousal support? Spousal support and maintenance are generally reserved for instances where there has been a long-term marriage and there is a significant gap in earning capabilities between the spouses. In determining the eligibility for spousal support, the court will take into consideration the grounds for divorce, especially if adultery has occurred.

The court will also take in other factors specific to the marriage and spouses, including:

  • how long the couple was married,
  • the age and physical and mental capability of each spouse and any special circumstances of the family,
  • the earning capabilities of each spouse and whether one spouse supported the other in their career advancement,
  • if one party was absent from the workforce for a length of time to support the other spouse and family,
  • the standard of living established during the marriage,
  • the contributions of each spouse to the well-being of the family,
  • the obligations and financial resources of each spouse, including personal, tangible and intangible property interests,
  • the ability of the dependent spouse to receive appropriate training or education to enhance his or her earning capability, and
  • any other factors the court deems relevant.

If the court finds that spousal support is warranted, it may decree that support be made as periodic payments for a set period of time, or in periodic payments for an undefined duration, or as a lump sum award, or in any combination thereof.  (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-107.1)

What is the process for restoring a maiden name or former name? - If you want to resume a former or maiden name, you can ask for it in your divorce. You'll also need to file a name change affidavit and pay the filing fee. The judge will then enter it after decreeing a divorce from the bonds of matrimony. You can also change your name even if there wasn't a provision in your divorce decree by applying to the court to restore your former or maiden name.   (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-121.4)

Will I have to take a parenting education class in Virginia? If custody, visitation, or support is being contested, both parents are required to attend a parenting seminar within the year preceding their court appearance and show proof of such attendance. They may also agree to attend such a class within 45 days of initiating legal proceedings. The court may also require parents seeking an uncontested divorce if it finds good cause. The seminar is required to be a minimum of 4 hours. 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. (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-103)

How is child custody decided in Virginia? Two types of custody will be decided in divorce and custody proceedings: "Legal custody" which means parental responsibility for the care and control of the child and authority to make decisions concerning the child and "Physical custody" which outlines the physical and custodial care of the child.

If parents cannot agree on custody, the court will make it's determination based on the best interest of the child. The best interests of the child include, but are not limited to:

  1. Each parent's ability to care for the child;
  2. The age and developmental needs of the child;
  3. The needs of the child;
  4. The relationship existing between each parent and each child;
  5. The role that each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child;
  6. Each parents willingness to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, while encouraging the child's relationship with the other parent;
  7. Each parent's willingness to cooperate with the other parent regard matters affecting the child;
  8. The child's wishes if the child is of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to make such a decision;
  9. Any history of family abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, or an act of violence, force, or threat that occurred no earlier than 10 years prior to the date a petition is filed.
  10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

If the parents can't reach their own custody arrangement, it will be up to a judge to determine child custody. According to the statutes, “there shall be no presumption in favor of any form of custody.” As a result, the court may order any combination of legal and physical custody. This may mean that residential custody is equally shared by the parents or that one parent has primary residential custody, while child spends time with the other parent on a regular basis. Courts tend to lean towards joint legal custody, meaning that both parents are involved in making major decisions about how the children. There are situations in which sole custody is appropriate. Sole custody means that one parent retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.

Litigated child custody is expensive and most parents are usually not happy with the custody arrangements handed down by the court. For this reason, parents are encouraged to reach a mutual agreement, either on their own or through mediation. (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-124.1 through § 20-124.3)

How much child support will be ordered in my case? In the eyes of the court, both parents are expected to contribute to the support their children. The amount of child support that will be ordered is dependent upon the percentage of time the child spends with each parent, each parent's income, the total cost of living, and child care expenses. The formula for calculating child support when one parent is the primary custodian is different that the formula used when the parents share physical custody (where the noncustodial parent has the children for more than 90 days). The court will follow the child support guidelines based on the custody arrangements and apply the guidelines worksheet to arrive at the amount of child support to be paid. 

The costs for health, vision, and dental insurance will be added to the basic child support obligation. Also added to the basic child support obligation is any child-care costs incurred due to employment of the custodial parent. The court may also require a parent to maintain an existing life insurance policy to provide financial security for a child in the event that the parent obligated to pay child support dies. Child support may be modified at a later date due to a material change in circumstances of either parent.

Generally, Virginia child support ceases when a child reaches the age of 18, or is legally emancipated. Support may be continued until the age of 19 (or when the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs first) if the child is a full-time high school student, is living at home with the parent receiving support, and is not self-supporting. Child support may also be ordered to continue for a child over the age of 18 who is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled if the child lives with the custodial parent. (Title 20: Chapter 6 - § 20-108.1 and § 20-108.2)

ReferenceCode of VA - Title 20 Domestic Relations