Divorce Filing Process In Virginia
The process for bringing divorce proceedings in Virginia requires several steps.
First, a party must meet certain jurisdictional requirements to bring a divorce action in Virginia. In order for a Virginia court to have jurisdiction to grant parties a divorce, one of the parties must have been a bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia for at least six months prior to commencing the suit for divorce. Additional jurisdictional requirements need to be satisfied in order for a Virginia court, as part of the divorce proceeding, to resolve issues such as equitable distribution of the marital estate, custody, visitation, spousal support, and child support. Once the jurisdictional elements are satisfied, a party can bring the divorce action in any Circuit Court in Virginia. However, the preferred venue for the divorce action is in the city or county in which the parties last cohabitated as husband and wife or the city or county in which the defendant spouse resides.
Grounds for Divorce
Second, a party must have grounds for a divorce. Virginia recognizes both fault and no fault grounds for divorce. Fault grounds for divorce include desertion, cruelty, conviction of a felony, adultery, sodomy and buggery. No fault grounds for divorce are based on how long the parties have lived separate and apart. In order to get a no fault divorce in Virginia, the parties must live separate and apart for one year. However, if the parties have no minor children and have entered into a written separation agreement, the parties can obtain a no fault divorce after they have lived separate and apart for six months.
Serving the Summons and Complaint for Divorce
Third, service of process must be made upon the defendant. Service of process gives the defendant notice of the divorce proceedings and must be made in strict compliance with the statutory requirements. Service of process requires that the defendant be served with the Summons and the Complaint for Divorce. Service on the defendant can be effectuated by the sheriff, a private process server, through an Order of Publication (for an out-of-state defendant or for a defendant whose whereabouts are unknown), by the defendant accepting service of process by signing an appropriate form before a notary public, or by the defendant voluntarily filing an answer to the divorce lawsuit.
Discovery and Litigation
Finally, once litigation is commenced, evidence may be gathered to support a party’s divorce action. Discovery tools such as depositions, written interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and subpoenas for documents are useful methods to gather evidence for a party to prove his or her action for divorce. In certain circumstances, notice of depositions is also required to be served on the defendant in a divorce suit.