Divorce in Virginia
One of the most common questions people have who come to my office is, “what will happen when I get divorced?” The answer is always driven by the specific circumstances of each case and how those circumstances fit into Virginia’s legal system for divorce. Courts have jurisdiction to make rulings with regard to your children, property, the amount of support payments received, and who ends up with your house.
Virginia Divorce: Complaints or Petitions?
Virginia divorces proceed through the legal system in a way that is very similar to any other civil case that is brought by one party against another – for example, breaches of contract, business disputes, or just about anything for which you could sue someone else. A “Complaint” is filed by one spouse against another, even when the parties have been able to settle all the issues. Sometimes “Petitions” can be filed in Virginia courts during separations for spousal support, custody, visitation, and child support. There are two different courts that are in play.
Which Court for a Virginia Divorce?
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court has jurisdiction to make rulings on anything except the divorce itself upon petition by an appropriate party. For example, a separated couple can utilize this Court to make rulings about who will have custody of the children, when the non-custodial parent can visit, spousal support payments, and child support payments. Its rulings can sometimes be appealed to the Circuit Court, which is a higher-level court that has jurisdiction over the divorce too.
Virginia Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over your marriage (meaning the ability to grant you a divorce), and all of the above-mentioned matters that are ancillary to your divorce and equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is the concept that describes the Circuit Court’s Power to divide your assets and allocate your debts. A Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court does not have the authority to do this. Those ancillary matters mentioned in this paragraph are custody, visitation, spousal support, and child support.
Contact a Virginia Divorce Lawyer
Each one of these courts has its own procedural rules and each concept mentioned in this post is subject to its own legal standard. Why, how, when, and if a party should file for divorce or for relief for any of the above-mentioned matters is a decision that can be made with the assistance of a Virginia divorce lawyer.