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What are the steps to getting a divorce in Virginia?

When a couple in Fairfax County and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia decides that they can no longer stay together and that a divorce is the best option, there are certain facts they must understand as they move forward with the end of a marriage. Keeping various divorce legal issues in mind can avoid a long and difficult dispute when ending the union. Before anything else, it's important to know the divorce procedures of the state.

First, a bill of complaint will be filed. One member of the couple must have lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia for at least six months to file in the state. This bill will list the reasons for the divorce. The court has the right to grant the divorce, provide a equitable distribution of property from the marriage, decide where the children will live and how much the supporting parent will pay, how much will be paid to support the spouse, who will live in the marital home and attorney fees.

The grounds for the divorce must be provided. Frequent reasons are the couple having been living separately for over one year, living separately for more than six months with no minor children and having a separation agreement, adultery, desertion and cruelty. Virginia is still a "fault" divorce state even though that is not used as much as it once was in a proceeding. The process must be served from the complainant seeking the divorce to the other spouse. This can be done by the Sheriff's Department, a private entity or it can be accepted by the defendant voluntarily. The defendant will then answer and possibly file a cross-bill to also sue for divorce.

After that, there can be a Pendente Lite hearing. This is a brief hearing to try and settle certain issues in the case. Temporary support of children and the spouse can be handled during this phase. Next will come discovery in which the information of each side will be disclosed. Motions regarding issues in dispute will then be dealt with. After that, a trial date will be set. Regardless of the circumstances, divorce can be so complicated and difficult personally, financially and emotionally, it's important to have experienced legal assistance -- which this blog post cannot provide -- so many of these issues don't have to come to the forefront and be a concern for the participants.

Source:, "Basic Virginia Divorce Procedures," Richard J. Byrd, accessed on Jan. 13, 2015

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