Lou Holtz, former college and NFL football coach, offered advice on complaining. “Never tell your problems to anyone,” said Lou, “… 20 percent don’t care, and the other eighty percent are glad you have them.” But a divorce complaint in Virginia is not like a complaint in everyday life. You have problems? So does everyone. You have a divorce complaint to file? Get a divorce attorney.
Divorce Complaints in Virginia
“… mean a complaint in a civil action, as provided in the Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia.”
A bill of complaint (a divorce complaint) is synonymous with “motion for judgment,” “bill,” or “bill in equity.” It is the first step in a civil legal action.
Divorce is a civil matter, not criminal, so to start a divorce in the Commonwealth, one party hires a divorce attorney (preferably) and has the divorce attorney file the divorce complaint that outlines the following information:
- Personal and contact information about you,
- Personal and contact information about your spouse, including her current address or whereabouts,
- Information about the marriage,
- Specific reasons you are seeking a divorce
Filing this information allows the court to determine jurisdiction. If you and your spouse do not reside in the court’s jurisdiction, you will be redirected to the proper court for filing. This is one of many good reasons to hire a family law attorney to handle your case. Your attorney will know not only where to file the right paperwork.
Should You File a Divorce Complaint on Your Own?
Some Virginia men feel they can save money and outwit the legal system by taking care of preliminary steps themselves. Herewith a note of caution, not from our esteemed law firm but from Norfolk Circuit Court:
The law clerks, clerk’s office and judicial staff are not permitted to give legal advice. In addition, the court and clerk’s office do not provide forms to file a divorce action (Bill of Complaint) or Final Divorce Decrees.
If you thought you could mosey on down to the courthouse, sweet-talk a clerk into helping you do the right thing at the right time, and maybe even get the right forms to fill out, think again.
You may wish to go it alone — that is, shed your wife and recover your life — but the divorce process is hardly a time to start testing your independence. Rely instead on a family law attorney.
When Should a Divorce Complaint be Filed?
Not only will a good attorney know the right court in which to file the correct forms and what to say in the divorce complaint, your attorney will also know when to file.
In the Commonwealth, filing the bill of complaint at the right time hinges on two things:
- If you are seeking a divorce based on fault grounds (accusing your wife of adultery, sodomy outside of marriage, buggery, cruelty, desertion … excuse us, we need to catch our breath … … … abandonment, felony conviction, or fear of bodily hurt) then you can file for divorce immediately, with no waiting period.
- If you are seeking a divorce based on “no fault” (neither of you has committed … we are not going through that same list again; just look up above) you must wait one year if you and your wife have children, six months if you have no children but do have a property settlement agreement.
If you file a bill of complaint for divorce prematurely, the court will not honor it. You will have to start all over when the time is right. Again, a great reason to leave this process to your legal team.
What to Include in a Divorce Complaint
Just as “bill of complaint” may confound you, the terms used for your divorce process may also be confusing. Thanks to television, we are all familiar with criminal law terms like defendant and accused. In civil law, however, the terms are not as well known or harsh:
- A complainant is a person filing a legal complaint for consideration by a court; a plaintiff or a petitioner is the same thing
- A respondent is a person accused of the civil wrong; in a divorce in which you initiate proceedings against your wife, you are the complainant (or plaintiff) and she is the respondent
The bill of complaint is a petition to the court asking for a legal solution to a big problem (divorce, child custody, spousal support, modification to parenting time).
The details of the bill of complaint are hugely significant. You must file the paperwork on time, with current information, so the court may not only determine jurisdiction but provide notification to the respondent that you have filed the petition.
The bill of complaint (the divorce complaint) will include such details as:
- Ages of your children
- Your duty status and deployment if either of you is in the military
- Location of your wedding ceremony
Prayer for Relief
The term “prayer for relief” will be part of your divorce complaint, whether you are a religious person or not. It is simply your “ask,” your desire for a specific form of legal remedy.
Here your divorce attorney will outline your desires for:
- Spousal support
- Division of property, debts and assets
- Child custody
- Child support
- Parenting time
These can all be handled in a separate document, called the property settlement agreement, but can also be incorporated into the divorce complaint.
Call The Divorce Lawyers for Men Only!
The Firm For Men is here to answer every question you have about divorce, separation, and other Virginia family law matters. Contact us online or telephone our offices at 757-383-9184. From confusion about the courts to dilemmas about your divorce, we stand ready to help Virginia’s men.