A Summary of Virginia Divorce Laws

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Grounds for Divorce Under Virginia Divorce Laws

There are several allowable grounds for divorce, in addition to irreconcilable differences, in the state of Virginia:

  1. Adultery
  2. Sodomy committed outside the marriage
  3. Conviction of a felony and sentence to confinement for more than one year
  4. Cruelty, apprehension of bodily hurt, or willful desertion or abandonment by either party

Residency Requirements

In order to obtain a divorce under Virginia divorce laws, either you or your other half must have been (and still be) a resident of the state of Virginia for at least six (6) months prior to filing.


The plaintiff may file in the county where where he/she last lived with the spouse or in the county where the defendant resides,

If the defendant has been removed from the state (by force or will), then the  plaintiff may file in the county of  his/her residence.

Waiting Period

The waiting period after filing for will range from six months to a year, depending on the complexities of the case.

Property Division

Virginia is an equitable distribution state. That means each of you share in the division of property based on what is deemed to be just and fair by either the court or the two of you, if you can reach an agreement outside of court.

When dividing the marital property equitably between the parties, the courts shall consider many factors including, but not limited to: the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, care, and maintenance of the marital property as well as the length of the marriage.


In cases with children the court may refer you to a certified mediator for evaluation if both parties have a legitimate interest in dispute resolution.


As in most other matters, if you and your spouse don’t agree, decisions regarding alimony will be left up to the court.

The court will consider the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery and any other grounds for divorce.

In determining the nature, amount and duration of an award of alimony, the court shall consider the following:

  • The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family
  • The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home
  • The contributions, monetary and non-monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
  • The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible
  • The provisions made with regard to the division of the marital property
  • The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity
  • The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability
  • The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market
  • The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party 
  • Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties

Child Support

In any proceeding on child support, the court shall consider all evidence presented relevant to any issues in that proceeding. However, there will be a rebuttable presumption in any proceeding for child support, including cases involving split custody or shared custody, that the amount of the award is the correct amount of child support to be awarded in accordance with Virginia divorce laws. 

In order to rebut the presumption, the court shall make written findings in the order that the application of such guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. The finding that rebuts the guidelines shall state the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines, shall give a justification of why the order varies from the guidelines, and shall determine the corrected amount by relevant evidence pertaining to the following factors affecting the obligation, the ability of each party to provide child support, and the best interests of the child:

  • Actual monetary support for other children, other family members or former family members
  • Arrangements regarding custody of the children
  • Imputed income (assumed income based on ability to earn income) to anyone who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed
  • Debts of either party arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child
  • Debts incurred for production of income
  • Direct payments ordered by the court for health care coverage, maintaining life insurance coverage, education expenses, or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child and costs related to the provision of health care coverage
  • Extraordinary capital gains such as capital gains resulting from the sale of the marital abode
  • Age, physical and mental condition of the child or children, including extraordinary medical or dental expenses, and child-care expenses
  • Independent financial resources, if any, of the child or children
  • Standard of living for the family established during the marriage
  • Earning capacity, obligations and needs, and financial resources of each parent
  • Education and training of the parties and the ability and opportunity of the parties to secure such education and training
  • Contributions, monetary and non-monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
  • Disposition of any marital property
  • Tax consequences to the parties regarding claims for dependent children and child care expenses
  • A written agreement between the parties which includes the amount of child support
  • A pendente lite decree, which includes the amount of child support, agreed to by both parties or by counsel for the parties 
  • Such other factors, including tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children

The court shall have the authority to order a party to provide health care coverage for dependent children if reasonable under all the circumstances and health care coverage for a spouse or former spouse.

Child Custody

In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. In the matter of custody, the court will ensure children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of raising their children.

As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may still award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest.

The court may award joint custody or sole custody. In determining the best interests of a child for purposes of determining custody or visitation, the court shall consider the following:

  • The age, physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs
  • The age and physical and mental condition of each parent
  • The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child
  • The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members
  • The role each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child
  • The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child 
  • The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference
  • Any history of family abuse 
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary and proper to the determination

Name Change

Upon request, the court may restore a wife to her former name.


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