Virginia Divorce Laws

When you have reached the point that your marriage cannot be saved, filing for divorce gives you a legal way to end the marriage. Yet, before you do, make sure you understand the laws surrounding the process and how they affect you.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds

In order to file for divorce in Virginia, you must first meet the state’s residency requirements. The state requires that at least one of the spouses is a resident of the state for six months prior to filing for divorce.

If you meet the residency requirements you must then have appropriate grounds for divorce. Virginia allows for no-fault divorce if the husband and wife and lived apart without cohabitation for a full year. This can be shortened to six months if there are no minor children involved and the couple has agreed to a separation agreement. Fault reasons for divorce allowable in the state include:

  • Adultery, sodomy or buggery outside of the marriage
  • Conviction of a felony with an imprisonment of one year
  • Cruelty leading to fear of bodily hurt or willful desertion for a period of one year

If one of the members of the marriage is in the military, the couple must follow military family law. This may require the help of an attorney who understands the specifics of military family law. Military couples can file for divorce in Virginia if they meet the residency requirements, even if their time living in the state is due to a military placement, not a permanent residence.

Division of Property

Virginia follows the equitable distribution model for distributing goods after a divorce. This distributes the goods based on what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. If the couple cannot decide on a division agreement, the marital property will be divided with the following factors taken into consideration:

  • Contributions made to the well-being of the family
  • Contributions to the acquisition and care of the marital property
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age, physical, and mental condition
  • Circumstances that contributed to the separation
  • How and when items were acquired
  • Debts and other liabilities of each party
  • Liquidity of marital property
  • Tax consequences
  • The dissipation or sale of marital property in anticipation of the separation
  • Other factors the courts feel is necessary

Child Custody

When children are involved in the divorce, the custody arrangement will be made based on what is in the children’s best interests. Factors considered may include:

  • Age of the parents
  • Age of the child
  • Health of the child
  • Wishes of the child
  • Child’s needs
  • Parental roles of each parent


Some cases will require the payment of spousal support form one spouse to the next. This is handled on a case-by-case basis at the court’s discretion. When it is deemed appropriate for one spouse to support the other, the following factors will be considered:

  • Obligations, needs, and financial resources of the parties
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age, physical, and mental condition
  • Whether or not the custodial parent can and should seek employment outside of the home
  • Contributions to the well being of the family
  • Property interests of the parties
  • Division of property
  • Earning capacities and job skills and training
  • Present employment opportunities
  • Opportunity for and cost of pursuing further education or training for employment
  • Decisions regarding employment, education, and career for both parties
  • Extent to which one party contributed to the education or career advancement of the other
  • Tax consequences

Child support amounts are decided based on the Income Shares Model for child support. This divides the cost to care for the children between the two parents in proportion to their incomes. The non-custodial parent will pay his or her amount to the custodial parent.