How to File for Divorce in Virginia Without a Lawyer

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Filing for divorce in Virginia is a relatively straightforward process. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for six months prior to filing. You can file on no-fault grounds if you have lived apart for a year, or after only six months if you have a signed separation agreement and no children. Virginia also offers fault grounds for adultery, cruelty and desertion.

Write a Bill of Complaint

Download a form for a bill of complaint from a reputable website that offers Virginia legal forms. Several state agencies also have forms that you can print out from their websites, just fill in the blanks. The exact form you choose will depend on your grounds: whether you’re filing after a six-month separation, a one-year separation or on fault grounds. Virginia has different forms for each.

Complete the caption of the form. If you are the one filing for divorce, you are the plaintiff and your spouse is the defendant. Give your spouse’s complete name and address, but leave the case number blank. The court will assign a number when you file the complaint.

Fill in the rest of the form, telling the court the details of your marriage, such as when and where it occurred. Specify the ground you’re using to file for divorce. If you have a signed separation agreement and you're filing after six months’ separation, check the box indicating this. Otherwise, at the end of the complaint, write in how you would like the court to rule on the issues between you and your spouse, such as the division of property, custody and support of any children, and payment of marital debts.

File Your Complaint

Sign your complaint and take it to the district courthouse in either the county where you and your spouse lived together or where your spouse currently lives. If he has left the state, you can also file in the county where you live. When the clerk stamps your complaint as received, you have officially begun your divorce process.

Serving the Complaint

You don't have to serve your spouse with your bill of complaint in Virginia, although this is a common step in most other states. After you file your complaint, the clerk will forward a copy of it, along with a summons, to the sheriff in your spouse’s jurisdiction. The sheriff will serve her.

She has 21 days to answer your complaint by filing a responsive document with the court, or she can do nothing and default. Your case will then go directly to hearing, where either a commissioner or judge will grant your divorce. If she does answer your complaint, the court will instruct you regarding all the next steps and court appearances that are required so you marriage can be resolved.



About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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