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How to File for Divorce in Virginia

Most individuals wanting a divorce in Virginia should consult an attorney who is a member of the Virginia bar for assistance. However, if you assume your divorce will be uncontested and you have no minor children as the result of the marriage, it’s possible for you to get a divorce without a lawyer.

Background

To file for a divorce in Virginia, you or your spouse must be a Virginia resident for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce. Ideally, you’ll file in the county of last residence. Before filing, you must have been separated for at least six months and must have a written property settlement agreement, according to the Circuit Court of Fairfax County.

If you elect to represent yourself, you’ll have to follow the same procedure an attorney does. Virginia law prohibits court personnel from giving you any legal advice or assistance.

Some Circuit Courts in Virginia provide a Pro Se Divorce Package for individuals filing on their own behalf. Check the web site of the county where you contemplate filing.

You can normally obtain the forms you need from the Clerk’s office in each Virginia county. However, you can also buy them from a variety of sites that advertise on the Internet.

Procedures

According to an article posted on eHow, here are the specific steps you’ll need to follow:

Fill out the preliminary forms. Obtain the correct forms from the Clerk’s office or an online site. Make sure to sign the cover sheet and the Complaint.

Make copies of the forms. You’ll need two copies of the Complaint and one copy each of the cover sheet, Acceptance form and Waiver.

File initial forms. Get specific instructions for your county by calling the Clerk’s office or visiting the web site. When you file the Complaint and cover sheet, personnel in the Clerk’s office should give you a VS-4 form to complete and sign. If you decide to file the Complaint and cover sheet by mail, you’ll need to request that the Clerk’s office mail you the VS-4.

Pay any fees. You’ll need to pay the filing fee, which varies per county. A fee of $84 is typical. The Clerk’s staff will then furnish you with a case number to use on all subsequent paperwork. Record this number where you can locate it later and also write in on any copies you’ve already made.

Notify your spouse. Send a copy of the Complaint, the original Waiver and the Acceptance forms via certified mail to your husband or wife. You should advise him or her that the Complaint is for his or her records. The Waiver and the Acceptance forms have to be signed before a notary public, then returned to you. Afterward, you’ll file them with the court.

Copy the executed Waiver and Acceptance. Make a copy for your records since the originals will go to the court. This process allows you to avoid having to serve your husband or wife with notices of the divorce hearing and the final decree.

Complete and mail all forms. Enter the dates of birth for you and your spouse on the Addendum. Also write in your respective Social Security numbers. Sign the Addendum, the decree, and the Request for Ore Tenus hearing. After making a copy of each one for yourself, mail all originals – Addendum, Final Order, Request for Ore Tenus, VS-4, Waiver of Service, Acceptance of Service, self-addressed and stamped envelope – to the court.

Attend the Ore Tenus hearing. The court will let you know when the Ore Tenus hearing will be held. You’ll need to take one witness to testify about how long you were separated. Also expect to testify yourself about the length of the separation and to verify that you really do desire the divorce. At this hearing, the judge enters the divorce decree.

Get a certified copy of the decree. The court should mail you one, using the return envelope you provided. If it doesn’t arrive, contact the Clerk’s office.

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