What’s the Fastest Way to Get a Divorce in Virginia?

There's no such thing as a "fast" divorce in Virginia. However, there are two useful shortcuts you can use to speed up the process considerably.

Divorces can be incredibly slow and drawn-out affairs. However, in Virginia, there are a few ways to speed up the process.

In most cases the length of your divorce will vary depending on several factors, such as the reason you filed and whether you and your spouse agree on how you’ll separate your property and responsibilities.

In this article, we will show you the quickest way to get a divorce in Virginia using two “best-case” scenarios.

However, as with all divorce cases, your real timeline is very fact-specific.

Only an experienced divorce attorney can give you a truly accurate assessment of how long your divorce might take.

The Basics of Speeding Up Your Divorce

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Before we go into the details of speeding up your divorce process, you should know there are two major factors which will determine how long your divorce will take to finalize.

First, Virginia’s divorce laws can change if one or both spouses are legally “at-fault” for the divorce.

Second, contested divorces take significantly longer to complete than no-contest divorces, and this difference can greatly affect the timeline of your overall divorce.

Fault-Based vs. No-Fault Divorces in Virginia

When you file for divorce, the judge will ask you for a reason, or grounds, for the split.

In Virginia, you can file for divorce for two specific reasons:

  1. Your spouse committed a legally-defined “fault” that is a dealbreaker for you.
  2. You simply don’t want to be married anymore, and, have lived separately from your spouse for the required length of time.

Depending on which reason you provide, the court will use different laws to settle your divorce.

If you’re filing for a fault-based divorce, you have to prove that the other spouse is legally “at-fault” for your divorce.

The Virginia Code recognizes four “faults” that could lead to a divorce: adultery, felony convictions, cruelty, and abandonment.

The laws governing your divorce only change if you can prove one of these four “faults” occurred and, more importantly, that this fault was a primary reason for your divorce.

In contrast, a “no-fault” divorce is a divorce for any reason other than the four listed above.

You may find yourself filing for a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.

You may also file for a no-fault divorce if there are fault-based grounds present, but you don’t have sufficient evidence to prove this fault in court.

Time Differences for Fault and No-Fault Divorces

As stated above, Virginia law requires that you live “separately and apart” from your spouse for a specified period of time in order to file for a no-fault divorce.

This period of separation must last for one year.

If you and your spouse don’t share children under 18, and you have a property settlement agreement, the period of separation is shortened to six months.

Since the vast majority of divorces in Virginia are based on no-fault grounds, most divorces take a year or longer to complete in full.

However, as described below, fault-based divorces have several options for speeding up the overall process.

What’s the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?

Just as with the “fault or no-fault” distinction above, there is also a difference between “contested” and “uncontested” divorces in Virginia.

Essentially, this difference boils down to a question of whether or not you will argue with your spouse about any significant element of the divorce.

In other words, if you disagree with your spouse on matters such as child support, alimony, or property division, the divorce automatically becomes contested.

In that case, the matter must be decided by a judge or mediator as part of the divorce process.

This means that you’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time and money arguing with your spouse in court or a similar venue.

On the other hand, uncontested (also known as “no-contest”) divorces are relatively quick and painless.

Further, they can be as simple as submitting the right paperwork to your local family court.

“Immediate” Absolute Divorce in Virginia

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In our discussion of “fault-based” divorces above, we mentioned that there were four legally viable “faults” for a divorce.

If you are filing for a no-fault divorce, or for a fault-based divorce based on cruelty or abandonment, you will have to wait for the period required by law before you can even start your case.

Generally, this means waiting either six months or a full year before you can make any progress on your divorce.

If you’re filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery or a felony conviction, however, you may qualify for what’s called an “immediate absolute divorce.”

In an immediate absolute divorce, there is no waiting period to file.

Further, the divorce is complete as soon as the judge signs your divorce documents.

As with any type of fault-based divorce, you must prove the grounds of your divorce before a judge will grant your petition.

This should be relatively easy in cases of felony conviction, since the court will already have a record of the criminal case.

In cases of adultery, however, you may encounter more trouble obtaining proof, as detailed below.

Finally, you should also note that even in cases of “immediate” absolute divorce, your divorce may still become contested.

In such an event, your divorce may still end up taking several months at a minimum.

As with any type of divorce, how quickly you can obtain a divorce based on adultery or a felony conviction will depend on the specific facts of your case.

How Do I File for an Immediate Absolute Divorce for Adultery?

There are several steps you’ll need to follow when you file for an immediate absolute divorce on the grounds of adultery.

As with any divorce, the process is initiated when you file a complaint with your local circuit court.

Your spouse will be “served” or given proper notice that a case against them has begun, and will have the opportunity to respond to your compliant.

The next steps in your divorce will largely depend on this response, and whether there are any additional issues to resolve as part of your divorce.

An important element of proceeding with a divorce based on adultery is gathering evidence.

You’ll have to prove that your spouse had the “inclination and opportunity” to cheat on you.

Many people hire a private investigator during this step if they don’t already have definitive proof of adultery.

Text messages, videos, pictures, and other documentation can also make this step quite easy.

If you think you may have a case to proceed with a divorce based on adultery, consulting with an attorney will give you a clearer idea of what proof you should gather and how long the process should take.

Quick Divorce for Incarceration

You can also file for an immediate absolute divorce your spouse was convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than one year of incarceration.

You would go through the same steps listed above, except you won’t have a burden of proving incarceration.

This is because the court will already have a record of your spouse’s conviction.

You should know, however, that if your spouse is incarcerated when you file for divorce, the process may be delayed.

This is because incarceration is considered a “legal disability.”

Without getting too technical, a legal disability in this context means that your spouse cannot sign any documents required to pursue a divorce.

To resolve this issue, a legal guardian must be appointed for any incarcerated spouse to proceed with a divorce.

Bed and Board Divorce: A Useful Shortcut

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We noted above how you can file for an immediate absolute divorce based on instances of adultery and incarceration.

However, if you’re filing for a fault-based divorce on grounds of cruelty or abandonment, you cannot file for an immediate absolute divorce.

Instead, cruelty and abandonment-based divorces have another option available to them.

Virginia’s Bed and Board Divorce

Many people aren’t aware that Virginia actually recognizes two different types of divorce.

The most common type of divorce is the type described above, also called an “absolute divorce.”

However, Virginia also recognizes another kind of divorce, which is commonly referred to as a “divorce from bed and board.”

You may think of this type of divorce as a legal separation.

In a bed and board divorce, you will go through all the stages of a normal divorce, including separation of property and determination of child custody and support.

Most importantly, you can start this process without waiting out the mandated period(s) of separation described above.

Who Can File for a Bed and Board Divorce?

Virginia law allows for bed and board divorces on the grounds of cruelty, abandonment, or credible fears of bodily harm.

If you can’t demonstrate any of these fault-based grounds, you should file for an absolute divorce instead.

How Do Bed and Board Divorces Work?

The main appeal of a bed and board divorce is there’s no waiting period to file.

Additionally, your spouse doesn’t have to agree to the divorce.

Another advantage of filing for a bed and board divorce is you can request a determination of who has rights to any home you and your spouse share.

If a judge enters an order declaring one spouse has a right to live in the home, the other must move out.

You can then go on to divide all the assets either personally or through the court system.

Once you have obtained a legal separation in this way, you are still technically (legally) married.

This means you will retain all tax and insurance benefits even while “divorced” through bed and board.

Similarly, it also means that you aren’t free to remarry until a judge signs off on your “absolute” divorce.

However, obtaining a bed and board divorce does not prevent you from filing for absolute divorce later on.

That process will be shortened as you have already dealt with matters usually handled during the absolute divorce process.


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There is no such thing as a “fast” divorce in Virginia.

The process of obtaining a divorce can take anywhere from a few months, to several years.

The length of time between separating from your spouse and obtaining a final decree of divorce will depend on a variety of factors, as detailed above.

For this reason, it’s impossible to predict exactly how long your divorce process will take without speaking with an attorney.

At a bare minimum you should expect to spend at least one to three months finalizing your divorce.

However, most Virginia divorces will take much longer, and can generally be resolved in roughly seven to fifteen months.

Consulting with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible in the process will help to expedite the divorce process and make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

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A Client-First Approach to Legal Services

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We’re a Richmond, Virginia law firm with clients from around the world. Schedule your free phone consultation today and let’s talk about what we can do for you!