How To File For Divorce in Virginia: A Step by Step Guide

Last Updated on July 29, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

In our guide for Divorce in Virginia, you’re going to get some great info on the divorce process and we’ll get into hiring an attorney and attorney’s fees.

You’ll always want to consult an attorney for your situation and if you’re going to be visiting the domestic relations district court (Circuit Court), you’ll want to make sure you’re working with your attorney on the right way to approach this.

You can always go with an online option by using Check out their service to see if they can help you.

Let’s get into the steps that you need to follow for divorce in Virginia.

Gathering State/County Required Forms

There are no official court forms regarding the process of divorce or separation in Virginia. People interested in learning more may visit various websites such as the Virginia state bar and legal aid. These were resources can also help you find an attorney in your local area. When it comes to gathering forms often folks will either hire an attorney, visit their local circuit court for court forms, or try and do it themself through

You can only qualify to use the legal aid forms in certain circumstances.

Deciding Type of Divorce in Virginia


In a contested divorce the parties are in disagreement about major issues of the case. This may mean issues of custody or issues relating to property distribution and debt distribution. The more the parties are in disagreement the more likely it is to lead to a drawn out court battle and the requirement that each party have their own attorney to resolve the conflict.

Non-Contested/Uncontested divorce

In an uncontested divorce the parties are in agreement on the major issues of the case. Often times the parties will come up with a property settlement agreement relating to the distribution of assets and debts of the marriage. Coming up with this agreement generally shortens the time. For which it takes to complete the divorce process.

Grounds for Divorce

Virginia courts recognize two types of grounds for divorce. The first is known as divorce from bed and board. The second is divorce from the bond of matrimony. In a divorce from bed and board it’s similar to a separation where the parties are not living together but are also not permitted to remarry. In a divorce from bond of matrimony this is also considered an absolute divorce or an actual divorce. If a person is first separated through a bad and bored divorce it can later be merged into a divorce decree.

There are several grounds recognized in a divorce from bed and board. The first is known as willful desertion or abandonment. This means no longer living together and an intention to desert in the mind of the person who has left. His separation by mutual consent is not desertion. Once desertion grounds exist a bed and board divorce suit may be filed immediately after separation . If the desertion has continued for a year or more from the date the parties originally separated then it’s sufficient to constitute a ground for divorce from the bond of matrimony meaning the case can be merged into an actual divorce.

The second ground is known as cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. This requires an act that tend to cause bodily harm and make a living between the spouse is unsafe. Mental cruelty alone is generally alone not a sufficient grounds for divorce in Virginia.

If filing an actual divorce or a divorce from bond of matrimony a party can file a no-fault divorce. In the no-fault divorce the parties must show that they have been living for one year or more continuously separately without any cohabitation. If you and your spouse have entered into a property settlement or separation agreement and there are no minor children that time period can be reduced down to six months. Although no-fault is required fault store may be an issue if one of the parties is seeking spousal support which is also referred to as alimony. Aside from a no-fault divorce fault grounds exist under a divorce from the bond of matrimony in cases of adultery, sodomy, or buggery. These cases are fact specific . Another ground for divorce includes conviction of a felony for which a person was sentenced to confinement for more than one year.

No-Fault Divorce

Virginia law allows a no fault divorce. See above for a further description and clarification.

Discovery Process

Pre filing

Prior to separation a spouse intending to or considering filing a divorce or separation should take considerable efforts to gather all information necessary to complete the process. This generally includes gathering things like: your marriage certificate, birth certificates, bank statements and passwords, retirement account information, real property titles, deeds, loans, especially loans related to vehicles, credit reports, vehicle titles, and any other related instruments that may be necessary to understanding the property that is at issue with the case or the debts at issue in the marriage. Once separated it becomes extremely difficult to gather this information without using the full discovery process through the court system. It’s not to say that a spouse cannot gather this information after the case is filed, it just takes substantially longer and costs more when gathering the information through an attorney rather than doing it yourself.

Post filing

The discovery process after filing for divorce is typically done through the use of an attorney and the legal system. This includes making a request for production of documents and related responses.

This can include motions, orders, additional letters, and substantial effort on the part of the parties to collect and gather the requested information and documents. The gathering of documents related to the divorce is only part of the discovery process.

There can be additional parts of the discovery process such as depositions, which are a court like proceedings where one attorney asks the other party questions related to discoverable materials. Through discovery an attorney can ask for anything reasonably calculated to produce discoverable materials. The discovery process is often either the longest and most expensive part of a divorce and sometimes that is second only to preparation and execution of the actual trial.

Costs of Divorce

There are both hard costs (fixed costs) and variable costs when filing for divorce in Virginia. This is a breakdown of a few key consideration.

Filing Fees

The cost of a divorce will vary by county. For instance, in Greensville Circuit Court, the cost to file a divorce is $84 and $12 for service of process. Please contact your local Circuit court to determine the price in your area.

Hiring an Attorney

Hiring an attorney is one of the most difficult cost questions to answer. There are different times at which she will pay attorney fees. There are consultation fees which may be charged by the hour or as a flat fee, and fees may vary from location to location based on population and other factors.

There are retainer fees which also vary from place to place and depend on your attorneys experience level. There is then the cost per hour for the attorney once they’re hired on to your case. Generally the attorney will hold the retainer fee and bill the hourly fee against the retainer fee and tell the retainer fee is used up.

Once the retainer fee is used up the attorney will come back to you with billing and either ask you to refund the retainer fee amount or start paying monthly bills as they are generated.

The actual cost of an attorney will vary substantially from case to case based on the cases complexity, the level of contested issues, the parties relative conflict, interpersonal relationships, and the general difficulty of the case. Suffice it to say that the longer a case goes on the more you will be paying an attorney fees.

Service of Process

In many or most counties, the service of process fee is offered at a reasonable expense at the same time as the filing of the divorce. The local sheriff will then serve the paperwork on your opponent.

Private process server is possible in cases where the Sheriff is unable to get the other spouse served. But, that comes at an increased cost.

If you are still having trouble getting the other spouse served, it’s best to talk to an attorney.

Serving Divorce Paperwork

This is the same of service of process. This is necessary to complete before the case can actually start.

Custody evaluations

The court may appoint a custody evaluator, especially in a contentious custody dispute. Evaluators are usually specially trained and qualified in psychology and will perform an extensive investigation into key stake holders and the children at issue in the case. They will then report back to the court with regard to their recommendations on custody and visitation time considering the best interests of the children.

Forensic accountant

You may need to hire a forensic investigator where one spouse is hiding assets or has tried to hide assets. The forensic accountant will dig and find hidden money, if any and will be available was a witness to testify in court about their findings.

Private investigator

If you are alleging adultery, especially adultery coupled with spousal support, you may consider hiring a private investigator to help prove your claim.

You’ll be able to use a private investigator to help you build up divorce compliant, physical and mental conditions


This article is intended to answer the frequently asked questions for a person seeking a divorce in Virginia.

Residency Requirements

One spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing. This is the minimum residency requirement.

Separation Time

Virginia requires at least one of the following:

  • Separation of at least six months; if there are no minor children of the marriage, AND you have a signed Property Settlement Agreement that takes care of all assets (property) and debts of the marriage


  • Separation of at least one year; if there are minor children

Where to File

The divorce complaint may be filed in the Circuit Court of any city or county where either spouse resides.

Filing Fees (vary based on location), the following is a general outline

  • $93 for an uncontested divorce; $88 if you have completed a court-approved Divorce Education Program

  • $96 for a contested divorce

  • Service of Process Fees

  • $30-$60, depending on the county

Processing Time

Once the divorce complaint is filed, it usually takes an absolute minimum of 30-45 days for the divorce to be final. If there are minor children of the marriage, it may take longer. Most divorces (assuming the waiting period has tolled) takes a minimum of 90 days. Some last several years or longer. The length of time is completely dependent on the level of animosity between the parties.

Hiring a qualified attorney

You want to make sure you hire an attorney that is qualified and has experience handling divorce cases in your particular area. The attorney will be able to tell you what the range of fees are for similar cases in your area.

How long does it take to get divorced in the state of Virginia?

The amount of time it takes to get divorced in Virginia varies depending on the complexity of the case and how much the parties agree or disagree on the key issues of the case. If the parties can reach an agreement on all of the issues, it may be possible to complete the divorce in a few months.

Some of the variables that can take additional time are:

  • child support questions

  • child custody questions

  • spousal support

  • defining marital property

  • custody arrangements

  • whether it’s fault based divorce or no fault based divorce

Is separation required before divorce in Virginia?

Yes. A further explanation is outlined above.

Can you get a divorce without going to court in Virginia?

No. In order for the divorce to be final, a judge must sign off on a final judgment. It’s possible to complete the process without going to trial, but a court will need to be involved.

Can I get child support in Virginia?

Yes. You may be able to get child support through the court system or through a private attorney. If you’re thinking about child support, you’ll want to make sure you have a divorce compliant, divorce papers and think about what spousal support.

If your spouse has child support obligations, you’ll want to make sure that you have a separation agreement

How do I get child custody in Virginia?

You’ll need to consult an attorney to determine if you can get child custody. It’s going to depend based on the situation especially if you’re looking for sole legal custody. Make sure you have an attorney representing you to make sure you’re getting custody and the innocent spouse here.

What is the difference between a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent?

Custody is all about decisions that impact the child. In almost all cases, the court will order joint custody. In rare cases involving abuse or extreme disagreement between the parents, the court will award one parent sole custody. In joint custody, both parents share responsibility for the physical, emotional, and moral development of the child(ren).

Can I get spousal support in Virginia?

The answer to this question will depend on a variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and the earning capacity of each spouse. You should consult with an attorney to determine whether you may be eligible.

What is the difference between joint legal custody and joint physical custody?

With joint legal custody, both parents have a say in making decisions about the child’s welfare, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Joint physical custody arrangements vary depending on the schedule that the parents agree to, but typically involve the child living with each parent. Physical custody is usually a reference to which parent the child lives with primarily.