Divorce in Virginia – FAQ

Dirk Padgett Law has represented hundreds of clients through divorce and child custody cases in and around Roanoke, VA. We understand first-hand the emotional toll divorce can take, even when both parties are in agreement.

Below is some helpful information and definitions relating to the dissolution of marriage in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is for informational purposes only. There are many scenarios to consider. You should speak with your attorney and discuss your specific circumstances.


General FAQs

  • What’s the difference between divorce, separation, and annulment?
    • Divorce is the end of a valid marriage
    • Annulment is the end of a marriage found to have never been valid
    • There is no status of “legal separation” in VA, however VA does allow for no-fault divorce on the grounds of a married couple living separate and apart for a period of one year, or for six months if a separation agreement is in place and there are no minor children.
  • What’s the difference between contested and uncontested divorce?
    • Contested divorce occurs when two divorcing parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, whether or not the parties have lived separate and apart for the required time.
    • Uncontested divorce occurs when both parties have executed a written Separation Agreement that takes into account care and custody of all minor children and fairly divides all assets.
  • How long does it take to get a divorce?
    • For no-fault divorces, the divorcing parties must be separated for one year. An exception exists for divorcing parties who have a Separation Agreement in place and who have no minor children.
  • How much does it cost to get divorced?
    • The cost of a divorce is variable, but it is significantly less expensive to file for an uncontested divorce. The more complicated the situation, the more contested or contentious a divorce is, the more time is required of the attorneys, which equates to higher cost.
  • What about custody of our children?
    • There are three types of child custody in Virginia:
      • Physical custody – One parent has physical custody and decision making authority for the child, though the non-custodial parent may have visitation rights.
      • Joint physical custody – Both parents share physical custody of the child.
      • Joint legal custody – Both parents have decision making authority over the child, regardless of where the child spends most or all of their time.
    • If you have minor children and are seeking divorce, it is important that you understand custody options and requirements in Virginia. You should speak with your attorney about your specific case and concerns.
  • How will our assets be divided?
    • Virginia is an equitable distribution state. Divorcing couples have the opportunity to decide for themselves what is fair distribution of assets. If they can’t agree on part or all of the distribution, a hearing will take place in which a judge will hear arguments and determine equitable distribution.
  • What about spousal support?
    • Spousal support is awarded in Virginia only when necessary. The court considers many factors in determining if spousal support should be awarded, and if it is, how much is awarded.
  • I’m scared for my safety, or the safety of my children. What can I do?
    • If you feel that you or your children are in immediate danger, call 911 and get to a safe place. If you’re not in immediate danger, you may need to consider a restraining order.

If you’re considering filing for divorce: 

  • What’s the first step?
    • The first thing you need to do is gather information: a list of all assets, any relevant legal documents (powers of attorney, existing child custody agreements, adoption papers), financial records, etc. 
    • Prepare for your attorney consultation. Write a list of questions you have so that you can make the most of your consultation.
    • Schedule a legal consultation. Your attorney will advise you on the next steps in the process.
  • What information do I need to file for a divorce?
    • You’ll need to prove that you have been a Virginia resident for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
    • You’ll also need to gather financial records including recent tax returns, bank statements, mortgage and loan information, retirement and investment accounts, etc.
  • Should I move out?
    • Generally speaking, no – at least not before you file for divorce. There may be exceptions where moving out makes the most sense, but speak to your attorney before you leave.
    • If you feel like you’re in danger, leave immediately and call 9-1-1.

If your spouse is divorcing you:

  • I just got served with divorce papers. What should I do?
    • When you’re served with divorce papers in Virginia, which consists of a complaint and a summons, you have 21 days to answer the complaint or you risk default judgment. You should contact your attorney as quickly as possible after you’re served so that they can advise you on the best next steps to take.

If you’re considering divorce, separation or annulment, or if you just have questions you’d like to discuss, contact us today. Consultations are free and there’s no obligation.


This content is for basic informational purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.