The dissolution of marriage in Virginia is legally referred to as Absolute Divorce or Divorce from the Bond of Matrimony.
To file for divorce or annulment, either spouse must be a resident of Virginia for at least six months prior to filing.
If a member of the U.S. armed forces has been stationed or resided in Virginia for at least six months immediately preceding the commencement of the suit, the person shall meet the residency requirement. Being stationed or residing in the state includes members of the armed forces stationed upon a ship having its home port in Virginia or at an air, naval or military base located within the state.
Any member of the U.S. armed forces who was stationed in any territory or foreign country at the time of, or immediately preceding, the initiation of the suit shall meet the residency requirement if he/she was domiciled in Virginia for the six month period immediately preceding his/her being stationed abroad.
In a suit for annulment, affirmance, or divorce, the complaint may be filed in the circuit court in the county or city in which the parties last cohabited, or at the option of the Plaintiff, filing party, in the county or city in which the Defendant, other party, resides, if he/she is a resident of Virginia, In cases where an order of publication may be issued against the Defendant, venue may also be in the county or city in which the Plaintiff resides.
If there are no children from the marriage, the couple must be separated for at least six months and have a written property settlement agreement before filing. If there are children from the marriage, the couple must be separated a minimum of one year before filing.
If the party who changed his/her name when he/she married asks, either in the divorce Complaint or in any motion filed with or after the Complaint, to resume their maiden or former name, upon decreeing a divorce from the bond of matrimony, the court may restore the party's former name or maiden name by separate order.
The grounds for an absolute divorce in Virginia are as follows:
When a marriage is alleged to be void or voidable for the following reasons or by virtue of fraud or duress, either party may file a suit for annulment; upon proof of the nullity of the marriage, it will be decreed void by a decree of annulment.
The following marriages are void and prohibited by Virginia statute:
All bigamous marriages are prohibited by law and shall be absolutely void, without any decree of divorce, or other legal process.
If either party to a marriage lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time of the solemnization, due to mental incapacity or infirmity, the marriage is voidable. It may be declared void by a decree of divorce or nullity.
The following situations render a marriage voidable and may be voided with entry of a decree of annulment when one party files a complaint and provides proof of the complaint:
No annulment for a marriage alleged to be void or voidable because either or both parties were under the age of 18; because either party lacked the mental capacity to consent to marriage; or by virtue of fraud or duress, shall be decreed if it appears that the party applying for the annulment has cohabitated with the other after knowledge of the facts giving rise to what otherwise would have been grounds for annulment; and, in no event shall any decree be entered if the parties had been married for two or more years prior to attempting to file suit for annulment.
Marriage and/or civil unions, partnership contracts between persons of the same sex are prohibited. Any such marriage, civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable.
When the validity of any marriage shall be denied or doubted by either of the parties, the other party may institute a suit for affimance of the marriage. Upon proof of the marriage's validity, it shall be decreed valid and this decree shall be conclusive upon all persons concerned.
To file for affirmance, one of the parties must be domiciled in, is and has been an actual bona fide resident of Virginia at the time of bringing suit.
Virginia is an equitable distribution state. The court may divide, transfer or order the division or transfer, or both, of jointly owned marital property, or any part thereof. The court shall also have the authority to apportion and order the payment of the debts of the parties, or either of them, that are incurred prior to the dissolution of the marriage.
Generally, the court shall have no authority to order the division or transfer of separate property or marital property which is not jointly owned, with the exception of some percentages of pensions, profit-sharing, deferred compensation plans or retirement benefits as described and allowed by statute.
Upon decreeing the dissolution of a marriage or a divorce from the bond of matrimony, the court, upon request of either party, shall determine the legal title as between the parties, and the ownership and value of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, of the parties. The court will also determine which property is separate property, which is marital property, and which is part separate and part marital.
Statute defines the following as separate property:
Marital property is defined by statute as follows:
The court shall classify property as part marital property and part separate property as follows:
The amount of any division or transfer of jointly owned marital property, and the amount of monetary award, the apportionment of marital debts, and the method of payment shall be determined by the court after consideration of the following factors:
The court, in determining whether to award support and maintenance for a spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery; conviction, sentencing and confinement for a felony; and cruelty, apprehension of bodily harm or willful abandonment.
When determining the nature, amount and duration of an award for maintenance the court shall consider the following factors:
If any former spouse receiving support and maintenance remarries, the support shall cease as of the date of the new marriage. Te party receiving the support has the duty to notify the paying party immediately of the remarriage. Failure to do so will entitle the paying party to restitution.
In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children.
In any case in which custody or visitation of minor children is at issue, the court may order an independent mental health or psychological evaluation to assist the court in its determination of the best interests of the child.
The court may award joint custody or sole custody.
In determining best interests of a child for purposes of determining custody or visitation arrangements, the court shall consider the following:
Virginia's child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model. The formula uses the combined monthly gross income of both parents. There is a table for incomes up to a total of $10,000 with various child support amounts set by the number of children being supported. For gross monthly incomes above $10,000, there are set percentages of the gross income to be added to the amount of child support ordered for incomes of $10,000.
Gross income includes income from all sources and includes salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits (except), workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, veterans' benefits, spousal support, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards.
Gross income shall be subject to deductions of reasonable business expenses for persons with income from self-employment, a partnership, or a closely held business. One-half of any self-employment tax paid shall be deducted from gross income.
Gross income does not include the following:
Spousal support received shall be included in gross income and spousal support paid shall be deducted from gross income when it's paid pursuant to an order or written agreement.
The court may order that support be paid for any child of the parties. The court shall also order that support will continue to be paid for any child over the age of 18 who is a full-time high school student; not self-supporting; and living in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support until the child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.
The court may also order the continuation of support for any child over 18 years of age who is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled; unable to live independently and support him/herself; and resides in the home of the parent seeking or receiving child support.
Virginia does not have legal separations which courts can grant. However, a couple has the option of filing for a limited divorce, legally referred to as Divorce from Bed and Board. It means that the husband and wife are officially separated and neither can marry another person.
Divorce from Bed and Board:
In granting a divorce from bed and board, the court may decree that the parties be perpetually separated and protected in their persons and property. This decree operates on property acquired thereafter, and upon the personal rights and legal capacities of the parties, as with a decree for divorce from the bond of matrimony, except that neither party shall marry again during the life of the other.
There are two grounds for a Bed and Board Divorce:
A decree of divorce from bed and board may at any time thereafter, upon submission of an order endorsed by both parties or counsel, be revoked by the same court which entered the decree.
A divorce from bed and board does not bar either spouse from obtaining a divorce from the bonds of matrimony on any ground which would have justified a divorce from the bonds of matrimony if no divorce from bed and board had been granted, unless the cause for absolute divorce was existing and known to the party applying for the divorce from the bonds of matrimony before the decree of divorce from bed and board was entered.
Upon the application by either party, the court may merge a decree of divorce from bed and board into a decree for divorce from the bond of matrimony if the following conditions are met:
In any case where willful desertion or cruelty is the ground for an application for divorce from bed and board, the court may enter a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony instead if the statutory period (as in a merger) has elapsed prior to the entry of the decree and if the court is of the opinion that no reconciliation has taken place, or is probable
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