1. Home
  2. /
  3. Filing for Divorce in

The idea of filing for divorce may be overwhelming. Naturally, people may worry about finances, children, and where to live. On top of that, the actual process of filing for divorce may seem daunting. The process itself doesn’t always need to be complicated. Consulting a family law attorney can help prepare individuals for how the process will go and what to expect.

Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

In Virginia, the person filing for divorce needs to have “grounds” for divorce. The fault grounds authorized in Virginia include: adultery, felony, cruelty, and desertion. Alternatively, a spouse may file for “no-fault divorce” after separation.

  • Adultery - In Virginia, adultery constitutes grounds for divorce, but requires corroboration of evidence of one spouse having intimate relations with a party outside the marriage.
  • Felony - A spouse can also file for divorce if the other spouse is convicted of a felony after the marriage, which resulted in confinement for at least one year.
  • Cruelty - An individual can file for divorce if his or her spouse is guilty of cruelty or caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt. Cruelty typically requires conduct that causes bodily harm or fear of bodily harm and makes living together unsafe.
  • Desertion - A spouse may also file for divorce if he or she was willfully deserted or abandoned by the other spouse. Desertion requires a spouse to willfully separate from the other spouse without justification with the intent to remain separated permanently.
  • Separation - A spouse may file for divorce after being separated and living apart for one year, if the couple has minor children, or 6 months, if the couple doesn’t have minor children and enters into a separation agreement.

Filing for Divorce

An individual must be a legal resident in Virginia for at least 6 months before filing for divorce. If filing for a no-fault divorce, a couple must be separated for one year before filing for divorce, if the couple has minor children, or 6 months if the spouses don’t have minor children and enter into a separation agreement establishing how property will be divided.

Filing for divorce in Virginia generally consists of filing certain forms with your local circuit court. Each county has their own rules and may have different forms so it’s best to get the required forms from your local courthouse in person or from their website. Filing these forms starts the divorce process. After an individual files the divorce forms, their spouse needs to be “served.” This means that the spouse receives copies of the divorce papers filed so they have proper notice of the divorce request, referred to as “service of process.” In Virginia, a spouse has 21 days from the date he or she was served with the divorce paperwork to respond. The initial document filed to start the process is a Complaint and a spouse will respond by filing an Answer. The Complaint will set out the facts of the case and any grounds for divorce the spouse is alleging. In the Answer, the individual must respond to all allegations made in the Complaint.

The divorce process doesn’t look the same for all couples. Generally, the level of contention between spouses will dictate how the process goes. More amicable spouses may be able to proceed with a more informal alternative dispute resolution divorce. If spouses are able to agree on every aspect divorce matters, they may file for an uncontested divorce. Alternatively, if the divorce is contentious and a marital agreement isn’t in place, the couple will need the court to make relevant determinations. An uncontested divorce or divorce handled through alternative dispute resolution will typically be resolved quicker and less expensive than a traditional litigated divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

If both spouses agree on all divorce matters, the divorce is “uncontested.” Uncontested divorces are typically settled quicker and less expensive. To seek an uncontested divorce, the parties must agree to file for a “no-fault” divorce, meaning that it’s not either spouse’s fault that the marriage is ending. To file for an uncontested divorce, one spouse must complete and submit specific forms to the court.

To be eligible to obtain an uncontested divorce, both spouses need to agree on every issue of the divorce, including issues regarding property and children. A joint separation agreement will need to be signed by both spouses, which divides a couple’s assets and responsibilities following the divorce. Additionally, if the couple has minor children, they must also include provisions about visitation, custody, child support, and insurance coverage for the children.

Some uncontested divorces in Virginia will be heard in court, while others can be heard through a deposition or affidavit. You can typically avoid having to go to court if you request to have a hearing by deposition or affidavit and submit additional documents.

Mediated or Collaborative Divorce

Not all divorces need to be contested and decided by a judge in a courtroom. Spouses that are more amicable can seek alternative dispute resolution rather than a court hearing. Instead of a hearing in front of a judge, spouses can proceed with a mediated divorce. Mediation is a process involving spouses attempting to resolve their disputes with the help of a third party, known as a mediator. Divorce mediation is more cost effective than divorce litigation in a courtroom, as well as usually speedier.

Additionally, while the court process is adversarial, mediation typically helps spouses compromise, which helps speed up the process. There is also the added benefit that because mediation is less adversarial and involves less confrontation, spouses that choose mediation may leave the divorce more amicable, which is especially important if children are involved.  Another benefit of mediation is privacy. Court proceedings of litigated divorces are public record, whereas the mediation process is not part of the public record and can be kept confidential.

Another method of divorce alternative dispute resolution is collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce involves out of court sessions where spouses receive legal advice from attorneys trained in the collaborative process with the goal of an amicable and fair resolution for both parties. While it shares similarities with mediation in that it is often cheaper and faster than litigated divorce, collaborative divorce includes guidance from trained divorce lawyers.

Collaborative divorce often includes a team of professionals, in addition to divorce attorneys, such as a mental health professional to assist with communication and child-related issues, and a financial professional to assist with collecting necessary financial information regarding assets and debts of the parties. This collaborative team works together with the spouses to work through emotional, financial, and legal issues to come to a mutual agreement of the parties’ rights and obligations after divorce.

Separation Agreements

If the spouses are able to agree on divorce related issues, they can enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement establishes the parties’ rights and obligations regarding marital debts and assets after a divorce. If the couple has children, the separation agreement will likely also address child support and child custody and visitation issues. However, even if the parties agree on issues of child custody, support, and visitation in a separation agreement, the court must approve the agreement to ensure it is in the best interests of the child. The existence of a separation agreement provides the spouses greater control over the disposition of assets rather than letting the court decide. Separation agreements can also cover issues that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over, such as post-secondary education expenses.

Marital Agreements

Premarital, or prenuptial agreements, are agreements a couple enters into before getting married that become effective once the parties are married. The agreement can discuss issues such as what will be classified as separate and marital property, property division after a divorce, spousal support, the allocation of labor and resources during the marriage, child custody and visitation, and child support. Courts will typically enforce marital agreements upon divorce. If a couple has a valid marital agreement in place that addresses divorce-related issues, the divorce process will likely be resolved quicker since those determinations have already been made.

Divorce may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. An experienced family law attorney can help you prepare and guide you through the process. Family law attorneys at General Counsel, P.C. are experienced in all aspects of divorce and can help you navigate the process. Call us today at 703-991-7973 and see how we can help you.

What Other Clients Have Said About Our Family Law Practice

Clear and compassionate

I consulted with Joanna regarding a dispute over some intricacies of a contract. She instantly understood my case and was wonderful at quickly explaining what breaches had occurred and what options I had moving forward. When I didn’t understand a finer point, she was happy to explain it until I did. Speaking with Joanna is a pleasure and I cannot recommend her highly enough for her kind and straightforward professionalism.


Professionalism, honesty, and efficiency… Joanna has it all!

I hired Joanna after a long drawn out battle of a divorce. Once I finished my divorce I went to Joanna with the intention of getting my child to my planned home with my new husband. Fast forward just a few months and we are now married and happily residing in Hawaii. Throughout the process Joanna was always honest, to the point, and efficient in what she expected of the courts and how my situation looked. I would recommend her to anyone looking for someone who can get results and be forthright in what you can expect.


Professional, Passionate, Proficient and very Pleasant to work with!

Joanna assisted with navigating a difficult divorce agreement when emotions were running high. My original lawyer failed to move proceedings along at an appropriate pace, and I hired Joanna to pick up from where he left off, and from Day 1 Joanna was on the ball, holding the opposing party accountable for their actions, and ensuring a timely and suitable resolution to our case.

She stuck to the facts, allowed the truth to be showcased, and stood her ground when personal attacks came our direction. With Joanna in your corner, you never have to feel alone. She will defend you and your position like a Pitbull if necessary, but was always great to work with, and carried with her an upbeat demeanor at all times.

I’d highly recommend Joanna’s services to anyone that needs not only professional representation, but also a friend as you navigate through a difficult scenario!


A Genuine People Person who Happens to Practice Law

Joanna was by far the kindest and most considerate attorney I have hired. From our first encounter through the conclusion of our case, my wife and I had no doubt that our best interest was at the forefront of her mind. She and her team worked efficiently to make the best use of the fees we paid. Joanna also expertly explained Latin-based legal terminology to us in plain English, so that we knew exactly what was going on. The case was resolved to our satisfaction and I highly recommend her services. I will not hesitate to pick up the phone and contact Joanna again, should the need arise.


Professional Problem Solver

Joanna was an absolute angel! Professional, knowledgeable, compassionate and patient. She listened to gain understanding of my concerns. She outlined a plan in a clear and concise manner. She achieved the best case outcome for my difficult situation. Very pleased with the results, and have no reservations about recommending her to anyone in a challenging situation that needs resolving by a sharp, clear-thinking pro.



Ms Johana Foard and her colleagues took over my Divorce case that had been lingering for over 2 years with no hope in sight!!! My other attorney took advantage of me being out of State, after thousands of dollars! Within 3 weeks Johana and her staff closed out my divorce even after opposing counsel was dragging her feet and not sending in the signed agreement that my ex- wife and I had agreed on. Johana took it upon herself to make sure it happened! I would definitely recommend Johana and staff! Thanks Johana!!!


We won !!!

Joanna represented me in a domestic violence stalking injunction case in which I was wrongly accused of stalking. She was thoroughly prepared for the hearing, and made sure to answer all of my questions before the hearing occurred so that I knew exactly what to expect, and what questions I would be asked. It is really unnerving to be accused of something that you did not do, and I am so grateful to Joanna for easing my fears and helping get the injunction dismissed! I would definitely recommend her to my family and friends, or anyone who needs an aggressive attorney that truly listens to your concerns and is totally on their side. I can’t thank you enough or recommend you enough, Joanna!


Divorce completed in 8 weeks

Joanna was attentive to every detail of my case. She was available for my questions and returned my calls and emails promptly. Joanna’s attention to detail and compassionate heart made me know I was not just another file in her case-load. She is a compassionate attorney who goes above and beyond to make sure her clients feel cared for and know that she is taking care of them. She prepared me for court by running me through all the questions that would be asked, so I never felt off guard. Joanna made a very difficult situation as smooth and painless as possible.


Honest lawyer who keeps it real!

When you first meet with Joanna it is like you are talking to an old friend. She is very knowledgeable along with being empathetic to your situation. Don’t let that fool you though, as soon as the time is right the boxing gloves come on and she is prepared and ready to fight.


The Personal Touch

After consulting with a few attorneys, I hired Joanna to work my case because she made me feel at ease. I couldn’t believe how responsive she was to every question and concern I had. She often proactively followed up just to see how I was doing if she hadn’t heard from me in a few days. She is thorough, informative, and personable. Just what I needed while going through one of the most difficult times of my life.


Highly recommended

Joanna Foard has been my family law attorney for the past several months, and I have felt so supported and attended to. She spent so much time with me on our initial consultation, and put me at ease and felt like a friend. My case has been very challenging and there has been so much uncertainty. I felt a relief just having her represent me. She got right to work without missing a beat and truly took my financial concerns into account. She has been honest and straightforward. She has not only been incredibly responsive, but she has shown she truly cares about my situation and wants to help bring resolve and peace. She responds to emails quickly, and if I call unexpectedly, she has either taken the call or returned the call in a timely manner. She is kind and supportive. She even sent a heartfelt sympathy card when I lost my grandmother. I don’t know any attorney who would take the time to do that. She is thorough and thinks out of the box. She is clear and concise, but that’s not to say she won’t take the time needed to ensure my questions are answered. Although she is not able to see my case through to the end due to her out-of-state move, she has never dropped the ball, and has only treated me with respect and consideration. I recommend her without reservation.


Herculean Effort

Joanna is incredibly hard-working, understanding, knowledgeable, and responsive. Besides all that, she’s a pleasure to work with…which is so appreciated given the difficult issues she’s helped us work through. I’ve often thanked her for the Herculean effort she’s put forth on behalf of my family and me. I would highly recommend Joanna.


Look No Further For Family Law Representation

Obviously when you require legal services it’s awesome to find someone that you can be confident with and comfortable in your dealings.

Joanna Foard is that attorney!

She is easy to speak with, detailed when it comes to that moment when you stand before the bench and most importantly prepared.

What a relief to be represented in such a professional manner!

Thank you sooo much!


Amazing attorney

I can’t begin to tell you where I should start when talking about Joanna. She comes across very sweet and innocent, but once you get to know her she is like a lion ready to pounce. I hired Joanna to take over when our previous attorney switched the type of law she was practicing. She picked up in the middle and carried it all the way through. She really makes you feel like you are a friend and not just a client. I would give her 10 stars if I could. Joanna is amazing.


The best there is.

Joanna Caccioppoli is a consummate professional, and more. She was extremely helpful throughout my divorce; not only with the outstanding legal advice she provides, but with empathy. Should you contact her, she is quick to get back to you. She works hard to get you what you deserve. She pulled my losing battle into an utter victory. I could not be more thankful to have had her in my corner.