Virginia Divorce Process

The Virginia divorce process involves filing for divorce, awaiting a response, and establishing some key information about your family unit. The degree of complexity often hinges on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

In many cases, divorce is much easier, cheaper, and faster if you negotiate your divorce settlement through a process like mediation. Mediation can save you money and stress, especially when compared to going to court.

What to consider before starting the divorce process in Virginia

Why do I want a divorce?

Getting a divorce is a major life decision. It’s not one to make arbitrarily. Consider the underlying reason why you want a divorce. Perhaps your marriage makes you deeply unhappy. Perhaps you are the victim of abuse.

This focus can help guide you through the divorce process when you feel emotionally drained.

Will a divorce help solve my problems?

When considering divorce, ask yourself whether it would be a real solution to your problem. Consider whether there are alternatives that could also solve your problem. For example, if you and your spouse are having difficulties, you might benefit and heal with couples therapy. On the other hand, divorce might be the best solution.

Am I ready for a divorce?

Knowing whether you’re ready for divorce isn’t easy. Even if you’re prepared, it’s likely to be an emotionally trying experience. It helps to have a plan for what to do during the divorce process and after it’s completed. 

Consider how you will financially support yourself and where you will live. If you have children, think about how you will care for them during this tumultuous time. Make sure you thoroughly understand the divorce process before beginning it. It’s possible to make some expensive missteps while getting a divorce that can be avoided with proper preparation.

Am I reacting emotionally?

Divorce is an emotional process. Most people marry someone they feel strongly connected to, and severing that connection, even if it’s the right thing to do, is hard. 

At the same time, some people react to short-term problems by considering divorce. For example, imagine an emotional fight between two married people. At first, divorce may seem like the right solution. They are both angry and unhappy with each other. However, it’s important to think logically and long-term. 

Ask whether you will still want a divorce a year from now or even a month from now. Give yourself time to cool off. Divorce may still be something you want after you give it some time,  but rushing into a big decision in the head of the moment is rarely a good idea.

Will I be able to reach a settlement?

Divorce can be a messy process between two people who may feel hostile toward each other. However, it’s often less extreme than that. If spouses are willing to talk and negotiate, divorce can be a faster and less time-consuming process. 

If you can agree on some of the major points of the divorce, such as how assets ought to be divided, how custody should be determined, and how any support payments might work, you may be able to skip the long, oft-expensive process of going to trial.

Mediation can often be the means to get to a mutually beneficial solution without going to court.

Steps to divorce in Virginia

1. File a divorce complaint

The first step to getting a divorce in Virginia is filing a divorce complaint. This document establishes that you want to get divorced and outlines the reasons why. 

The document should outline your grounds for divorce. Common reasons accepted by Virginia as grounds for an at-fault divorce include adultery, abuse, abandonment, and cruelty.

If none of these apply, or you don’t wish to label one partner as at-fault, you could also file for a no-fault divorce in Virginia.

2. Spouse responds to divorce complaint

After your divorce has been filed, your spouse will be given a chance to respond to the divorce complaint. This is their opportunity to deny or admit to the claims made in your complaint. 

If they deny a claim you’ve made, you may need to prove it in court at a later date, assuming you still want that reason for your divorce to be considered.

3. Pretrial motions

Divorcing parties have the right to file pretrial motions in Virginia. This means they can request certain things from the court. Common examples include temporary child and spousal support, temporary custody of relevant dependents, and the establishment of a child visitation schedule while parents are separated but not yet divorced. These orders are not permanent.

4. Discovery

At this stage in the divorce process, assuming the divorce is contested, there will be a period of discovery. This is when you and your spouse share critical information relevant to your divorce, such as your financial information. Anything relevant to the divorce should be disclosed so it can be considered for the marital settlement agreement.

Note that in an uncontested divorce, this extensive discovery process is skipped. Instead, a simpler process occurs in which evidence is taken by a deposition, usually at an attorney’s office.

5. Divorce court

If the divorce is uncontested, a final decree may be signed by both parties and filed.

But if the divorce is contested, the divorcing spouses will need to go to trial. At the trial, both parties will present their case and any relevant information about themselves, like their finances. A judge will then decide how the divorce should proceed. 

This phase is not needed if you and your ex can come to an agreement through a cooperative process like mediation

How mediation can save you time and money

Good news: The fact that two people can’t immediately agree on aspects of their divorce such as custody, spousal support, or asset division does not necessarily mean they must have those details decided in court.

Mediation is a cheaper and faster option to determine those details. 

In mediation, divorcing spouses negotiate divorce settlement details with the aid of a neutral mediator who keeps the conversation productive. Notably, the mediator can’t force an agreement. So, it’s still possible for two parties to go to trial after trying mediation. But in most cases, solutions are achieved in mediation.

Remember that no one gets everything they want in a divorce, so it’s beneficial to give a little during your negotiation. If you do, you are more likely to get the things that are important to you in your divorce settlement.

At Hello Divorce, our certified mediators can help you negotiate the terms of your Virginia divorce. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to ask questions and get answers about how we may be able to help.


Virginia Divorce. (December 2022). National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Divorce. Virginia Judicial System Court Self-Help.
Divorce in Virginia. Virginia State Bar.

Divorce Specialists
After spending years in toxic and broken family law courts, and seeing that no one wins when “lawyer up,” we knew there was an opportunity to do and be better. We created Hello Divorce to the divorce process easier, affordable, and completely online. Our guiding principles are to make sure both spouses feel heard, supported, and set up for success as they move into their next chapter in life.