The longest journey begins with a single step, and if your road is leading you to divorce in Virginia, the single step that starts the process is filing a bill of complaint. This step is not as simple as it sounds, however: In order to file the complaint, you need to figure out many of the details of your divorce, including whether you will seek a fault divorce by charging your spouse with some improper conduct, or instead seek a no fault, assuming you have met the separation requirements.
Divorce in Virginia
Filling out a bill of complaint in Virginia is the first step to getting a divorce. While state law controls the types of divorce available and the prerequisites to get a divorce, county courts set their own procedural requirements. If you are representing yourself in a divorce, you must be familiar with both state law and county procedures and rules.
Under Virginia law, you can file for a no-fault divorce only after a period of separation. This can be as short as six months, if you and your spouse are in agreement as to the divorce, have reached a separation agreement determining all issues, and have no minor children. Otherwise, a 12-month period of separation is mandated by state law for no-fault divorce.
The other types of absolute divorce are based on fault. You can get an absolute divorce based on evidence of adultery, sodomy or buggery without a specific waiting period. You can also get a divorce without waiting if you plead and prove that your spouse was found guilty of a felony and sentenced to at least one year of imprisonment.
Filing a Bill of Complaint in Virginia
To get a divorce in Virginia, fill out a document called a bill of complaint. You'll have to state that the residency requirements have been fulfilled.That means that one of you has been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before you file suit.
You also have to set out the specific grounds for the divorce. If it is a no-fault divorce, you have to state that you have been separated for six months, have entered into a separation agreement with your spouse, and have no minor children. Alternatively, you must state that you have been separated for 12 months. If you are suing for a fault divorce, you have to state the grounds.
You also have to include in the bill of complaint the names of the parties, a statement that all are over 18 years old, a statement of the military status of each spouse, the current residents of each, the date and place of marriage, and the names of dates of birth of all minor children.
File the original and one copy of the signed Bill of Complaint. You can file suit in the county where you and your spouse last lived together as husband and wife, in the county where your spouse lives, or in the county where you live. The remaining documents you must file vary among counties. For example, in Fairfax County, you must file a VS-4 form, providing statistical divorce data. You also have to file two copies of the domestic case cover sheet.
Service on Your Spouse
Once you file your complaint, you must "serve" a copy on your spouse. This means give him a copy as required by law. Usually, you hire a private process server or the county sheriff's office to serve the documents. Your spouse can voluntarily acknowledge service by filing an answer.
- Should you elect to hire an attorney for your divorce proceedings, he will fill out the Bill of Complaint on your behalf, provide it to you for approval and your signature, and file it for you.
With a Master's in English, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's law school, Teo Spengler is up on education. She splits her home time between San Francisco and France. A perpetual student and frequent teacher, she is also a writer and world traveler. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Fairmont Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites.