Virginia Divorce Attorneys

Divorce is never easy. Hire an experienced Virginia family law attorney who can provide the guidance and peace of mind you need in this difficult time.

Dependable Family Law Attorneys for Your Divorce Case

Learn More About Divorce at Tingen & Williams

Our Mission

We deliver quality legal representation to clients who need help navigating a complex and often confusing legal system.

Our attorneys and staff are committed to promoting access to justice in our local community and beyond through our detailed online guides, affordable payment plans, and client-centered approach to each and every case.

Who We Are

We’re a collection of experienced attorneys, dedicated support staff, and savvy tech professionals. We’re innovators, difference makers, and advocates for justice.

Most importantly, we’re a group of people who genuinely want to help our neighbors with their legal problems.

Our attorneys recognize that the ones who need legal services the most are often the ones who can afford it the least.

At Tingen & Williams, we’re trying to correct this problem.

How We Can Help With Your Divorce

Many of the clients who visit our office feel that they’re ready for divorce, but aren’t quite sure of their options, or even where they should start.

Some walk in after receiving misinformation about the divorce process, either from reading questionable legal advice online or by talking with well-meaning friends and family who’ve been through the process themselves.

Others come prepared with the proper documents and evidence, but still need help navigating a complex and often confusing legal system.

Always, the people who walk through our doors have questions.

At Tingen & Williams, we take pride in our client-first approach to the divorce process.

We know that filing for divorce can be a stressful time, and we want to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible for each and every one of our clients.

Whether that’s sitting down with you to talk about your options or taking the time to perfect every little detail in your paperwork, our attorneys and staff are committed to providing you with the best possible representation in your case.

We’ve outlined the basics of our divorce practice below, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions about your divorce or our services.

Remember, only an attorney well-versed in both your case and Virginia divorce law can help guide you through the trying weeks and months to come.

If you’re interested in working with our firm please give us a call at (804) 477-1720 to speak with one of our attorneys about your case.

We hope you choose to retain our firm for your legal matter, and thank you for taking the time to #lawyerup with us!

Ready to Speak with an Attorney?

Call us today at (804) 477-1720 to schedule a phone consultation, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch within one business day.

Our attorneys have a reputation for fast communication, affordable billing practices, and a commitment to the best interests of our clients.

The communication is quick and responsive. I keep recommending people because you give great service and you keep getting good results.
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Carmen Pelaez
Former Client

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A Law Firm for 21st Century Clients

Learn More About What Sets Us Apart

Whether you’re looking for a quick no-fault divorce or going through something more complicated, our attorneys have the skills and experience you need to resolve your case both quickly and effectively.

We take a different approach to legal services by focusing on ways we can solve the most common problems people have with law firms:

Problem: It's hard to get in touch with my attorney.

At Tingen & Williams, we’ve made a commitment to always respond to client contacts within one business day.

When you’re already dealing with the stress of an important legal matter, quick and consistent communication is very important.

Whether you want a simple update or you want to better understand the strategy in your case, our attorneys and staff will keep you in the loop at every step of your case.

Problem: I've heard about attorneys that will promise one thing and then deliver another, so I'm worried about what to expect.

No attorney can guarantee a specific result in your case.

Instead, we aim to help clients understand every aspect of their case before moving forward.

There’s no such thing as a “sure-thing” in the legal world, but we’ll do our best to make sure you know what to expect before you step into the courtroom.

Problem: I never know what's going on in my case, and my attorney never explains anything.

We believe that an informed client is a happy client.

From our firm’s extensive Knowledge Base to our client-focused consultation structure, we’ve developed our business around making sure our clients understand the ins and outs of their specific legal matter.

Problem: Attorneys are too expensive, and I'm worried that I won't understand where my money is going.

We believe in giving everyone access to justice, and we try to reflect this ideal in every aspect of our practice.

For this reason, we’ve taken steps to make the legal process as affordable and accessible as possible for all of our clients.

While it’s no secret that some types of cases can get expensive quickly, our attorneys ensure you only pay for the services you need.

Further, our transparent billing practices can help you know ahead of time exactly where your money is going.

Experienced Attorneys and Dedicated Staff

Learn More About Our Divorce Team

Regardless of whether you’re going through an uncontested divorce or something more complicated, we can help you navigate this difficult period in your life.

Please take a moment to learn more about us below, or reach out to us at (804) 477-1720 if you’d like to know more about any of our attorneys or their practice!

Jacob graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law and was accepted to the Virginia Bar in 2012. Less than 30 days after being admitted to the bar, Jacob launched his own legal practice.

James focuses his practice on intellectual property law, family law, and criminal defense. No matter the situation his clients are in, James is committed to helping his clients pursue the best possible outcome in their case.

Client-Focused Solutions

Hire an Attorney Who Cares

Our attorneys believe in using a combination of legal expertise and cutting-edge technology to solve problems for our clients.

Whether that’s providing you with free downloads and resources or minimizing the cost of your divorce by using digital tools, we believe in leveraging our experience and know-how to make sure you receive the best possible outcome in your case.

Remember, no one expects to get divorced.

However, an unexpected divorce doesn’t have to be a chaotic divorce.

At Tingen & Williams, you’ll receive the experience and guidance you need to ensure your divorce is as quick and painless as possible.

Online Tools and Billing

To help make things easier for our clients, we try to put as much of our representation online as possible.

This includes online forms you can fill out to streamline our representation in your case and invoices emailed straight to your inbox.

Access to Justice After Your Case is Over

At the conclusion of your legal matter, you’ll be provided with a coupon code to sign up for our subscription retainer service, Access, absolutely free for two months.

With your free two months of Access, we’ll be able to finish up any minor legal issue that arise after we resolve your original legal matter.

More than "Just" Family Law

A divorce is often more than “just” a divorce. Many legal issues bleed over from one practice area to another.

At Tingen & Williams we provide services to meet a wide array of legal needs that impact the lives of most people in the everyday lives.

Free Resources and Downloads

Alongside our online tools and easy-to-use website, we provide a growing stockpile of books, downloads, and resources on our blog to help you get the most out of your legal representation.

Client Testimonials

Don't Just Take Our Word For It

Read what some of our former clients have to say about our firm.


Sonia Hernandez

“Do you know how hard it is to find a lawyer that you can trust? I’m always telling people about Tingen & Williams. Jacob [Tingen] has been our lawyer for 3 years now and he is excellent. He has been great for us, the very best. I wouldn’t be in school right now if it wasn’t for Jacob. Tingen & Williams really is number 1.”

Jorge Herrera

Jorge Herrera

“Well, you guys treat people well. You always look for a way to help your clients. You give great information. You do your best to help the hispanic population. You give us confidence that we will get what you say. You gave me confidence throughout my case that things would turn out well, and I would recommend you to everyone who needs a lawyer.”


Liliana Ornelas

“I am very pleased with the work Tingen and Williams and their staff have done for me and my family! I am now green card holder and the job was done fast and in a very efficient way! Thank you Tingen and Williams, I will continue to recommend you to all my friends and family.”


Ready to Speak with an Attorney?

Call us today at (804) 477-1720 to schedule a phone consultation, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch within one business day.

Our attorneys have a reputation for fast communication, affordable billing practices, and a commitment to the best interests of our clients.

They are very good. Tingen & Williams has always had the right price and the payment plans are very helpful. They make time for me and they treat me well. I recommend them.
Jessica Mejia Testimonial
Jessica Mejia
Former Client

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Ready to Speak with an Attorney?

Call us today at (804) 477-1720 to schedule a phone consultation, or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch within one business day.

Our attorneys have a reputation for fast communication, affordable billing practices, and a commitment to the best interests of our clients.

Well, the experience with Tingen & Williams seemed very professional and special to me because they are so kind and speak perfect Spanish. Thank you for being so kind and different from the others. Thank you.
norma sesena
Norma Sesena
Former Client

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What You Need to Know

Virginia Divorce 101

A quick little graphic that shows the five general requirements spouses must meet in order to file for divorce in Virginia.

Generally speaking, filing for divorce in Virginia is only as difficult as you and your spouse make it.

If you agree on every issue of your divorce, and take steps to meet all the requirements for filing, you can complete your divorce in as little as a few weeks.

If, however, you and your spouse disagree over certain critical elements of your divorce (such as property division), or if the petitioner is filing for divorce on one of the fault-based grounds described below, your divorce could end up taking months, if not years, to complete.

Put another way, the length, cost, and complexity of your divorce is directly dependent on whether you and your spouse can work out certain important issues amongst yourselves without having to appear in front of a judge.

In most cases this is actually quite simple, as you only have to meet a few basic requirements in order to file for divorce in Virginia:

  1. You must meet Virginia’s residency requirement. This means that either you or your spouse must have lived in the Commonwealth for at least six consecutive months leading up to the date you file for divorce.
  2. You must establish grounds for your divorce. This means you’ll have to explain to the court the reason why you’re filing for divorce. The most common grounds for divorce is a six-month to one-year period of separation from your spouse. However “fault-based” grounds such as adultery and abandonment are also available in certain situations. The grounds of your divorce will largely determine the type of divorce you file for, as well as several other important details.
  3. You must divide your property in an equitable (“fair”) manner. Generally, this means you must divide any and all marital (“shared”) property in a way that is fair to each spouse. Separate property, such as inheritances or things you owned before your wedding, are usually not susceptible to division during this process, but you should still talk with your attorney if you’re unsure about what to divide.
  4. You must follow Virginia’s established divorce procedures. Most often, this means that you’ll go through Virginia’s uncontested divorce process. If you or your spouse disagree on any significant element of your divorce (such as how you’ll divide your property), your divorce will automatically become contested. The contested divorce process follows slightly different rules and procedures, and generally take much longer to complete than uncontested divorces.
  5. Finally, a judge must review and approve your divorce paperwork to make sure it follows all relevant Virginia laws. After the judge signs off on your final decree of divorce (or, in the case of a contested divorce, makes a final ruling in your case) you’ll officially be divorced.

However, you should keep in mind that more complicated cases always require additional legal attention, and the procedures you’ll follow in your case can vary based on where and how you file.

For this reason, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with laws and procedures of your local Circuit Court before you submit any documents to the Clerk.

Virginia's Friendly Divorce Option

Uncontested Divorce

A short quote about the purpose of uncontested no-fault divorces in Virginia.

At face value, filing for an uncontested divorce is actually rather simple.

Speaking plainly, all you really need to do is (1) meet the basic requirements for filing a divorce petition, (2) submit a few specific documents to your local Circuit Court, and (3) attend a quick hearing or submit a final deposition or affidavit to the court so they can review and finalize your paperwork.

To expand on this topic a little, there are ten general “steps” that you’ll need to follow when filing for an uncontested no-fault divorce in Virginia:

  1. Fulfill Virginia’s Residency Requirement – In order to file for an uncontested divorce in Virginia, you must first prove that either you or your spouse has been a bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia for at least six consecutive months leading up to the date you file for divorce.
  2. Determine Your Eligibility for a No-Fault Divorce – Almost all uncontested divorces are filed as “no-fault” divorces. This means that the grounds for your divorce will be a six-month to one-year period of separation from your spouse. You should also outline and draft a Separation Agreement at this stage. This is a document that lays out the basic elements of how you’ll continue with your divorce (such as how you’ll divide your property and how you’ll live in the weeks and months leading up to when the judge signs off on your divorce paperwork).
  3. Submit Your Bill of Complaint to the Circuit Court – Once you have your documents and plans in order you should submit a bill of complaint to your local Circuit Court. This complaint will include information about you and your spouse, and should also outline why you’re filing for divorce (in this case, the period of separation we outlined above).
  4. Provide Your Spouse with Notice of the Divorce – After you file your bill of complaint and other relevant documents with the court, you’ll have to provide your spouse with notice of the divorce proceeding. In most cases, you can simply pay a small fee (usually $12.00) and ask the sheriff’s office to serve your spouse for you. However, you should always speak with the court or your attorney to double-check your local rules and procedures.
  5. Wait for Your Spouse to File an Answer to Your Divorce Complaint – After the sheriff serves your spouse with divorce papers, your spouse must file an answer. Basically, they can either agree that the documents they received are correct, contest some element of the documents, or choose to do nothing. For a “friendly” divorce, meaning an uncontested no-fault divorce in which you have already drafted and signed a full separation agreement, your spouse will generally answer by responding with a Waiver of Notice. This document basically says “yes, I know the divorce is happening, we’re on good terms and in agreement, let’s drop some of the normal procedures to speed this up.”
  6. Pick the Appropriate Divorce Strategy (in this case, you want an Uncontested No-Fault Divorce) – Since you’re filing for an uncontested no-fault divorce, your divorce strategy is basically “let’s get this over with as quickly and cheaply as possible so we both can move on with our lives.” This means that you and your spouse will work together with your separate attorneys to move the divorce forward in a quick and efficient manner.
  7. Work Together With Your Spouse to Draft and Review Critical Divorce Documents – As a continuation of the previous step, you’ll want to work together with your spouse to draft and review several divorce documents for the court. If you haven’t made a Separation Agreement by this stage (as described above), it’s critical that you create one immediately. You’ll also want to make sure all your other divorce documents are ready and correct before you submit them to the court.
  8. Attend an Ore Tenus Hearing or Submit an Affidavit to the Court – In Virginia, you can either request an ore tenus hearing (in which you appear in front of a judge) or, in some situations, file for divorce through an affidavit (basically a document that means you don’t have to actually show up in court). The point of these options is that you want to swear under oath that all the information you’ve submitted is correct, and that you’re ready to finalize your divorce. Neither is particularly difficult or long to complete in an uncontested divorce. In fact, you may be able to finish either in as little as 15 minutes.
  9. Wait for the Court to Process Your Paperwork – Like most bureaucracies, the court may take a little while to finish up your documents. If you’re filing for an uncontested no-fault divorce, choose to have an ore tenus hearing, and have all your ducks in a row, the judge may even sign your final decree at the end of your hearing. Otherwise, it may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the court to process your paperwork.
  10. Receive Your Final Decree of Divorce – You will be formally divorced from the moment the judge signs your Final Decree of Divorce. Generally, you will receive this decree either directly from the court (such as at the end of an ore tenus hearing) or through the mail. In some cases your attorney may also let you know when it’s ready, and may even pick it up from the court for you.

While this is far from a comprehensive step-by-step guide to the uncontested divorce process, you can hopefully see the general shape of the process as it works in Virginia.

Basically, as we noted above, you should start by meeting the requirements to file for divorce, then you should make sure you file your divorce correctly.

Finally, all you have to do is wait for the court to process your paperwork.

Remember, though, that while this process may seem simple at first glance, there are still numerous pitfalls that can make your divorce both longer and more expensive.

For this reason, it’s always wise to speak with an attorney about your case before you submit any paperwork to the Circuit Court. This is true even for basic uncontested no-fault divorce cases.

Virginia Default Divorce

What Happens if My Spouse is Absent and I Can't Find them?

A quoted image that reads "You may only divorce an absent spouse in certain situations, such as if you've done your due diligence in trying to find the, but your search turned up empty."

There are several workarounds for finalizing your divorce case if you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse.

Note, however, that it’s highly recommended that you hire an attorney in such a situation.

Often, divorcing an absent or nonresident spouse will require additional steps and complicated, location-specific procedures, so you must have an attorney by your side to avoid any unexpected problems.

Generally speaking, the goal of such a case is a “default” divorce. However, you should note that Virginia Circuit Courts don’t allow such default divorces in the normal sense.

Instead, you will go through a specific subset of procedures in the normal uncontested divorce process that center on providing proper notice to your spouse, usually through service by publication.

Put more simply, you may only divorce an absent spouse in certain situations, such as if they live out of state or if you’ve done your due diligence in trying to find them but your search turned up empty.

Or, as noted in Va. Code § 8.01-316, an order of service through publication may be entered:

  1. When the party to be served is a nonresident individual; or,
  2. When “diligence has been used without effect to ascertain the location” of the party to be served (your spouse); or,
  3. When a sheriff is unable to locate the individual at their last known local residence for twenty-one days in order to provide proper service.

In the case that you can’t locate your spouse, you simply have to show that your case meets one of these three requirements.

For example, if your spouse lives in a different country, you may meet the first “nonresident” requirement for service by publication.

Similarly, if you go out of your way in your search to find them (such as by calling them, texting them, trying to serve them at their last known residence or work address, contacting their family or friends, etc…) but you still can’t find them, you may meet the second “due diligence” requirement noted above.

Once the court approves of your service by publication you’ll generally have to follow through with the normal uncontested divorce process, with a few minor procedural changes.

For example, you’ll still have to submit all the relevant documents to the court to file for divorce.

However, the Clerk will also usually send an order of publication to the local newspaper, who will then run this order of publication for several weeks (in addition to other, location-specific procedures).

After this short waiting period (which, as we mentioned above, should fulfill the “notice” requirement for your Virginia divorce), you can (probably) proceed with your case as if it was a normal uncontested divorce.

It’s important to remember, however, that this process is not a substitution for the normal divorce procedures.

You can’t file for a divorce in this way simply because your spouse is hard to locate.

It must be impossible for a normal and reasonable person to locate their whereabouts for you to file on this manner.

Additionally, this way of filing for divorce is both longer and more expensive than the normal divorce process.

For example, you should expect to spend at least an additional 4-6 months waiting for the service by publication to go through.

Similarly, service by publication usually costs several hundred dollars depending on the jurisdiction, as opposed to the $12.00 or so that is costs for the Sheriff to serve someone in the normal way.

For all of these reasons, and more, you should always speak with an attorney if you’re having problems locating your spouse so you can file for divorce.

It’s almost guaranteed that divorces involving absent spouses will require additional legal legwork, and only an attorney well-versed in your local Circuit Court’s procedures can properly help you through the process.

Virginia Contested Divorces

What Happens if I Disagree With My Spouse Over Custody or Property Division?

A quick quote about the contested divorce process.

If you file for divorce in Virginia and your spouse disagrees with any significant element of your divorce (and makes this disagreement known to the court), you will automatically enter the contested divorce process.

Essentially, this means that a judge will have to decide on the contested matters of your divorce, such as the division of property or how much spousal support one party must pay to the other.

The Virginia contested divorce process can last anywhere from a few months to several years, and can end up costing you a great deal of money in the long run through legal fees and other associated costs.

Contested divorces are adversarial processes where each spouse makes an argument in front of a judge, who will then make a ruling on each issue of the divorce.

For example, if you disagree with your spouse on how to split your assets, such as who gets to keep the “family car,” a judge may have to intervene to settle the issue.

This judge will then decide on how they can split the property “equitably” (“fairly”).

So, in the car example, they might choose to award the car to a particular spouse, or they could order that the spouses sell the car and split the money gained from the sale.

They could also order one spouse to “buy out” the other spouse’s interest in the car, a common solution for large-ticket items such as vehicles or houses.

Contested divorces generally proceed similarly to uncontested divorces. However, there are a few key differences that can complicate your case.

Most of these differences arise after your spouse receives notice of the divorce proceedings, as many contested divorces start when one spouse disagrees with the information provided in the other spouse’s Bill of Complaint or in their proposed Separation Agreement.

Note, however, that you can swap between an uncontested and contested divorce at will.

At any point in the divorce process, you can negotiate a Settlement Agreement with your spouse and switch to an uncontested divorce.

Similarly, at any point in the uncontested divorce process, you (or your spouse) can initiate a contested divorce by disagreeing with anything in either the divorce petition or the associated separation agreement.

Finally, note that some divorces can be part contested and part uncontested. By this, we mean that the court will only render decisions on the contested elements of your divorce.

For example, let’s say that you disagree with your spouse on who gets to keep the family dog.

If you agree with your spouse on every other element of your divorce, then the only contested issue is the ownership of the dog itself.

In this way, you could settle every other element of your divorce as per the uncontested process, but then schedule a hearing with a judge to decide on who gets to keep the dog.

While the rest of your divorce would generally follow the uncontested divorce steps noted above, this one part of your divorce would introduce additional contested divorce steps such as discovery into the mix.

For this reason, the contested divorce process generally follows the course of the uncontested divorce process, with the one major exception being that you’ll have to fight out the contested issue in court.

As a general guide to this process, contested divorces in Virginia will usually follow five broad steps:

  1. Determine Your Eligibility for a Divorce – You must meet certain requirements to file for divorce in Virginia. Since most contested divorces are still no-fault in nature, the biggest requirement is most likely that you’ll have to remain separated from your spouse for a full year before you file for divorce.
  2. Submit your Bill of Complaint to the Circuit Court and Provide Your Spouse with Notice – Just as with the uncontested divorce process we explained above, you’ll have to submit a Bill of Complaint with the court and then have the Sheriff serve your spouse with divorce papers. In contested divorces, your spouse will likely submit an answer that corrects or disputes certain elements of your divorce paperwork (after all, the point is that they’re “contesting” your plan for the divorce). In some cases they will also submit a counterclaim at this stage, which lays out how they think the divorce should proceed.
  3. (Optional) Go to Mediation, Negotiate a Settlement, and/or Request Temporary Orders – After your spouse formally contests the contents of your divorce decree or separation agreement, you’ll enter Virginia’s contested divorce process. However, you can still come to an understanding with your spouse at any point in this process to revert your case back into an uncontested divorce. For example, the judge will often order that you attend mediation with your spouse to work out your differences. Similarly, you may want to negotiate with your spouse through your respective attorneys to see if you can resolve the contested issue. In cases where you can’t come to an agreement, you may have to request temporary orders from the court so you can “get by” while the divorce is ongoing. Such orders could temporarily require that one spouse pay spousal support (“alimony”) to the other, or could temporarily resolve certain custody or visitation issues while litigation is ongoing.
  4. Prepare for Discovery and the Eventual Divorce Trial – In the months and weeks leading up to the trial you should coordinate with your attorney to ensure a quick and easy, yet thorough, discovery process. In general terms, you and your attorney should do your homework so you’ll be properly prepared when the time comes for you to go to trial. As with the optional point above, you can continue to attend mediation sessions or negotiate with your spouse as new information comes to light during the discovery process.
  5. Litigate Any Remaining Contested Issues in a Trial – In the event that you and your spouse simply cannot settle things outside of court, you’ll have to litigate (“argue”) any remaining contested issues at a trial in front of a judge. The judge will then make a final determination in your case, thus resolving the matter and (hopefully) ending your divorce case. As with the normal uncontested divorce process above, you’ll be formally divorced from the moment the judge signs your final decree of divorce after your trial.

Remember, however, that this is far from a comprehensive guide on the matter.

You must speak with an attorney if your spouse contests important elements of your divorce such as property division, child custody, or even the grounds of the divorce itself (as described in the next section).

Contested divorces are complicated matters that require both attention and precision to resolve, and only an experienced attorney who has reviewed your entire case can provide advice and guidance on what you should do in your particular situation.

The Adversarial Divorce Process

What Happens in a Fault-Based Divorce?

Fault Based Divorce Graphic

Virginia law provides for several specific “grounds” that residents of the Commonwealth can file for divorce under.

In order for a Virginia Circuit Court to accept your divorce petition, you must list one of these grounds as the reason you don’t want to be married anymore.

Note, however, that the grounds you choose will have a significant impact on the length and complexity of your divorce.

For example, in a “fault-based” divorce, you must base your divorce petition on one of the fault-based grounds for separation outlined in the Virginia Code, such as abandonment or adultery.

At the same time, you must be able to prove, in a civil court, that your situation meets the statutory definition for the fault-based grounds you are applying under.

For example, Va. Code § 20-91(A)(6) states that the court may decree a divorce in any situation, “where either party has been guilty of cruelty, caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willfully deserted or abandoned the other.”

On the other hand, in a no-fault divorce neither party is legally “at-fault” for the separation.

Instead, no-fault divorces center on a six-month to one-year period of separation, during which the spouses must live “separate and apart” from one another.

This is the closest thing Virginia has to divorcing for “irreconcilable differences,” but with the added requirement that you must establish a separate household from your spouse (i.e. you must live as if you were no longer spouses for the entire period of separation before you may file for divorce).

In essence, by living both separate and apart for a certain period of time, you can establish grounds for a divorce because of this period of separation, regardless of the reason you separated in the first place.

For example, if you want to file for divorce because your spouse cheated on you, you could file for divorce on the fault-based ground of adultery.

Or, if you don’t want to go through the legal processes surrounding a fault-based divorce, you could simply live apart from your spouse for a year and then file for a no-fault divorce once you’ve met the “period of separation” prerequisite.

The distinction between the two is important, as the type of divorce you file for can significantly impact the speed of your divorce, your strategy in court, and how the judge ultimately decides to divide your assets and settle other divorce-related matters.

If, however, you speak with an attorney and they recommend that you file under one of the fault-based grounds listed in the Virginia Code, you should take note of the risks involved in the process.

For example, fault-based divorces almost always lead to the contested divorce process.

For this reason, they are significantly more expensive and will take much longer to complete than most no-fault divorces.

In fact, many of the people who choose to file for a fault-based divorce will convert their case into a no-fault divorce once they meet the one-year separation requirement for this divorce type, as such a decision will often save a great deal of time, money, and heartache in the long run.

For most cases, though, the answer to “what happens in a fault-based divorce” will largely depend on the specifics of the particular situation, the goals of the petitioning spouse, and the rules and procedures of the Circuit Court you’re filing in.

As a few quick notes of things you should expect:

  1. Generally speaking, the whole point of filing for a fault-based divorce is to gain an advantage in the normal divorce process so that you can meet a particular goal. For example, spouses who are found to be at-fault because of adultery generally aren’t awarded spousal support (“alimony”) by the court. Similarly, spouses who are found to be “cruel” and those who legally abandon their children are much less likely to receive favorable custody or visitation orders.
  2. You should expect your case to quickly descend into the contested divorce process in a way that (most likely) can’t be resolved outside of court. After all, your whole case is based on the accusation that your spouse committed a legally-defined fault such as adultery or cruelty, so the chance of them fighting the accusation is high, while the chance of you finding a middle-ground in the situation is rather low.
  3. Your fault-based divorce will most likely take longer to complete than a no-fault divorce, even if you take the six-month to one-year period of separation requirement into account. However, you can always convert your divorce into a no-fault divorce down the line.
  4. As part of the fault-based divorce process, you’ll have to prove to a judge that the circumstances of your case meet the standards outlined in the Virginia Code and previous case law regarding the fault you’re claiming. For example, raunchy text messages between your spouse and their lover will not, by themselves, meet the requirements for a fault-based divorce on grounds of adultery. Instead, you’ll need definitive proof that the actual instance of adultery occurred, such as video, images, or witness statements by people who caught your spouse in the act. The same is true for cruelty and abandonment, while a fault-based divorce on grounds of a felony conviction is a whole other can of worms that’s too complicated to unpack in a short description such as this.

In any event, what you need to know is that you should speak to an attorney about your case well in advance of filing the paperwork for a fault-based divorce.

Virginia’s definitions and procedures for this divorce type are rather complex, and the benefits of such a strategy are only apparent when you file correctly.

Only an attorney who has reviewed your entire case can determine whether a fault-based divorce will be advantageous in your particular situation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Divorces can be complex legal matters, and clients will often have questions about why our services are the best fit for the job.

Check out our answers to a few of these frequently asked questions below, or call us at (804) 477-1720 to schedule a free phone consultations with one of our attorneys!

No (sane) attorney will answer this question without first listening to a full overview of your case and the circumstances of your situation.

We can, as we did in the sections above, provide a general outline of how the process works in theory, but the specific shape and nature of your divorce is something that only your attorney can outline in full.

If you’d like some more general information about the Virginia divorce process, please see the linked articles and resources in our “Free Resources and Downloads” section above.

Spouses who file for divorce in Virginia must submit certain information to the court as part of the normal divorce process.

For example, you’ll have to include certain vital information in your divorce complaint such as your date of marriage and when you separated from your spouse.

Similarly, your property settlement agreement should divide all marital property “equitably” between you and your spouse, so your attorney will most likely want to see all of your financial records as well.

Generally speaking, you should collect any available information relating to your marriage.

Remember, the court will ask about the who, what, where, when, and why of your marriage, so your attorney will most likely need to know this information as well when preparing your case.

The answer to this question will also largely depend on the specifics of your case.

For example, you may be able to complete an uncontested divorce in as little as a few weeks, while a contested divorce could take up to a year or more to finish in full.

Put simply, the more issues there are to resolve, the longer your case will likely take.

For this reason, it’s usually wise to ask your attorney for a ball-park estimate of your case’s length when you go in for your first consultation.

For more information, please see our article, “How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Virginia?”

The total cost of your divorce will depend on several facts, such as the type of divorce you’re filing for, the complexity of the issues in your case, and the billing structure of the attorney you hire.

For this reason, it’s impossible (and irresponsible) for anyone to accurately estimate the cost of your case without first reviewing every element of your divorce.

In general, uncontested divorces will cost somewhere in the realm of several hundred dollars, while contested divorces can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars or more depending on the circumstances of the case.

However, you should remember that only your attorney can give an accurate estimate for what you should expect to pay in your particular situation.

For more information, please see our article, “How Much Does it Cost to Get a Divorce in Virginia?”

Virginia spouses who file for divorce must follow the Commonwealth’s equitable distribution process.

This is basically an organized way for two married spouses to divide any joint or marital property between themselves as part of their divorce process.

Generally speaking, there are three steps to Virginia’s equitable distribution process:

  • You must classify your property as marital, separate, or mixed.
  • You must value any relevant marital and mixed property, such as the family home or the family car.
  • You must divide this marital and mixed property in an equitable (“fair”) manner.

We’ve written several guides on the equitable distribution process for our Knowledge Base.

However, the gist of the situation is that you must fairly divide any shared property between yourselves.

Separate property, such as inheritances and most property that was purchased before the marriage, is not subject to the equitable distribution process.