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A step-by-step guide to Virginia divorce: Part I

If a Virginia resident decides to divorce, there are various available options. Virginia divorce proceedings can be divided into two categories: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. A contested divorce proceeding is the divorce process under which one of the spouses wishes to get a divorce while the other spouse opposes it, or opposes the grounds of the divorce. On the other hand, in an uncontested divorce proceeding, both partners wish to separate and end the marriage.

Initially, the attorneys of the spouses must decide if Virginia family courts have jurisdiction over the matter. Virginia courts will only have jurisdiction over the divorce proceeding if the couple has stayed in the state for a minimum of six months before the divorce filing. The attorneys would then file a bill of complaint, which essentially dissolves the couple's marriage in court.

Such bills of complaint can include various aspects of the divorce proceeding, including matters relating to child custody, child support and alimony. It is important to note, however, that a service of the bill of complaints is necessary. That may be served by a government agency, such as the Sheriff's department, or even by a private messenger.

The attorneys of the couple also need to file for divorce separately. Under Virginia law, "fault" grounds for a divorce, including adultery and desertion, are often noted. However, in recent times, couples often try to get a mutual consent divorce, in which they do not cite any fault on either side. Fault grounds can, however, affect various other aspects of the divorce, such as child support and alimony, depending on the specific details of the case.

Source:, "Basic Virginia divorce procedures," Richard J. Byrd, Accessed on July 15, 2015

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