But I Live Here: Jurisdiction and Divorce in Virginia
There are a lot of moving parts to any divorce. Even though most people see it as a straightforward matter of two people going their separate ways, getting a divorce is not usually as easy as getting married. Even an uncontested divorce where both parties agree on everything takes no fewer than three notarized documents and several pleadings before the Court will even consider signing off on the Final Order for Divorce. If your case includes property to divide or issues of custody, visitation, child support, or alimony the process can become even more complicated.
But before you even get to drafting that initial complaint and having it served, first you must know one very important thing: Where do I file for divorce?
I Just Want a Divorce. There’s No Property or Debts to Divide, and Custody isn’t an Issue.
If this is the case, you may be in luck. The state of Virginia will issue a no-frills basic divorce to anyone who meets the qualifications for grounds and has lived in the Commonwealth for at least 6 months as a bona fide resident. There are still service requirements on your spouse if they don’t live in Virginia, but you can divorce them here. If you spouse raises any issues of property, custody, or support, however, you may have a problem, so it would be advisable to talk to an attorney to protect yourself. A written agreement can take care of these issues and clear your path to divorce.
How do I qualify for Equitable Distribution or Requesting Support in Virginia?
There are a few ways. For one, if both you and your spouse live in the Commonwealth you both are probably under Virginia’s jurisdiction to rule on those matters.
If your spouse doesn’t live in Virginia, you will have to sit down with an attorney and answer a few questions:
- Has my spouse ever lived in the state, or do they work here?
- Where did we last live together?
- Where were we married?
- Where do we own property, or where is the property we acquired during the marriage?
- Would they agree to come back to Virginia for the divorce?
- Do we have a separation agreement or prenuptial agreement?
- Are either of us involved in the military or government service?
These questions, amongst others, will help you and an attorney figure out whether or not you can proceed with divorce proceedings in the Commonwealth, and what your options might be otherwise.
What About My Custody Issue Or Child Support?
Custody is a bit simpler – and largely has to do with where the children are living and how long they have lived there, though there may be complications if there are already custody and visitation orders in place through the Courts. Child Support has its own factors for determining whether it can be pursued as part of a divorce, largely depending on where the paying parent resides, though the Commonwealth has some statutes called long-arm statutes that might apply.
Again, an attorney will be able to assist you in parsing out these issues and deciding how and if it impacts your case and where you want to file.
The DiPietro Law Group has several experience attorneys who are all versed in these questions and can work with you to decide whether your case can be filed in Virginia and what options are open to you. Even if you don’t qualify for jurisdiction in Virginia under the normal rules allowed, we can help you identify any special exceptions or other options that will help you move towards a clean start and navigating the divorce process.