Virginia divorce proceedings are about as easy or hard as those of our five bordering states. Fortunately, Virginia does not follow the example of a neighbor to the north: Vermont requires a year’s residency, six months’ separation, and three-month decree nisi waiting period — 21 long months. If you file in the right Virginia jurisdiction, you usually can be divorced within a year, at least. If you know where to file.
Virginia has a tiered state court system, with the Virginia State Supreme Court presiding over everything. Below the Supreme Court are the Court of Appeals, below which are the 31 Circuits and 120 Circuit Courts.
Equally responsible below the Circuit Courts are the two district systems serving all 32 Virginia districts:
- General District Courts
- Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts
So, with a web of five different court categories and hundreds of courts, how can you know where to file your Divorce Complaint?
Doing It Yourself? Turn Back Now!
No state court does the work for you. Our state’s courts make sincere but limited efforts to assist the average Virginian with court proceedings. For example, you can dig around and find the form for filing for a no-cost, no-fault divorce.
No court employee, however, is permitted by law to provide you legal assistance with the filing. You either do it right yourself or you start over. No hints.
Know what you are doing. The Fairfax Circuit Court has an online manual for pro se divorce (pro se means you are representing yourself). Coming in at a tidy 130 pages, it is a short course in the long haul of separation and divorce.
No sensible citizen who can afford an attorney would go this route, if only because of the not-so-subtle “Turn Back Now” warning on the first page of the manual (with their emphasis, not ours):
“If you decide to proceed on your own, you will be expected to follow the same procedures as an attorney. … You are responsible for preparing all documents to be submitted in the divorce. Please DO NOT ask Court personnel for legal advice or assistance. State law prohibits Court personnel from giving you legal advice or assistance.”
Uh huh. Oh, and there’s this: if you file in the wrong jurisdiction, you may have to start all over in the right one, from scratch.
Which Court Do I File For Divorce In?
All divorces in Virginia — contested and uncontested, fault grounds or no-fault — are handled in Circuit Courts as civil matters.
To file a Divorce Complaint in the correct Circuit Court, you merely have to match your residence and domicile to the right Circuit Court. Easy-peasy.
The Judicial System helpfully provides a little interactive map to make your task oh-so-simple. For example, if you live in the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit, you file with one of these courts:
- Charles City
- James City County/Williamsburg
- King William
- King and Queen
- New Kent
- Williamsburg/James City County
- York County Poquoson
Okay, that probably wasn’t a great example because that’s 10 counties within one Circuit, which gets a little confusing. But surely you know your own address, right?
Only, you may not be filing under your own address. Usually, you file the Divorce Complaint in the Circuit Court for your county of residence, but not always:
- Suppose she was a Virginia resident but moved out of state; you file in your Virginia county of residence
- Or you can file in the county where your spouse lives
- Or you can file in the county where you and your spouse last lived together
- If your spouse is not a Virginia resident, you will file in the county where you reside
Hmm. That does not sound so simple, does it? Is there (we asked knowingly) a better way?
Know What You Don’t Know
Avoid the hassle, confusion, and frustration of trying to navigate the Virginia Judicial System by yourself. Hire a family law attorney to find the right jurisdiction, the right form, and the right papers to file. Oh, not just the Divorce Complaint, mind you. Your experienced attorney will also file:
- VS-4 State Statistical Form
- Domestic Case Coversheet
Your attorney will also handle payment of filing fees and service fees. Service fees are for process serving (officially letting your spouse know you are divorcing her).
When you put your faith and future in the hands of a good family law attorney, you know your case will be heard in the right court, in the right jurisdiction.
Contact the Competent Divorce Lawyers at The Firm For Men
Every question about family law deserves a complete, competent answer. From simple questions of jurisdiction to tough questions about child custody, The Firm For Men is your resource in Virginia. Contact us online or telephone our Virginia Beach offices at (757) 383-9184 today. We will be happy to handle your separation and divorce. And we always file in the correct jurisdiction.