Man and woman signing divorce paperwork


E. Gordon Peters, Jr Nov. 30, 2020

Every year, approximately 2,800 couples get divorced in Virginia. What started with affection and the intention to build a life together ends in what can be a complex and contentious legal process.

If you’re considering divorce, have started the process, or have been served with divorce papers, knowing the steps involved in a divorce can be useful information that may help alleviate some of your stress.

For nearly 20 years, E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law, has provided knowledgeable and compassionate representation for clients in Lynchburg, Blackstone, and surrounding Virginia communities during the divorce process.

Getting Divorced in 8 Steps

While every divorce is unique with its own set of circumstances, there are several steps that are typically followed throughout the process.

1. Determine Eligibility

There is a residency requirement in Virginia. To be eligible to file for divorce, one of the spouses must have been a resident of or stationed in the military in Virginia for at least six months. In the case of no-fault divorce and divorces based on desertion or cruelty, the spouses must live apart continuously for one year if they have minor children or for six months if there are no minor children and both enter into a valid separation agreement.

2. Hire an Attorney

Although you can represent yourself in a divorce, the court will hold you to the same standards as an attorney. If you have significant assets and debts or are arguing about custody of children, you should retain a family law attorney to represent you. Retaining an experienced attorney will help ensure that your best interests are taken into consideration throughout the divorce process. Furthermore, an attorney will know how to prepare and file all the necessary documents with the court.

3. Decide Whether the Divorce will be Contested or Uncontested

If you both agree to the basic terms of the divorce, you can have a family law attorney draft a separation agreement. The agreement details everything from the division of assets and debts to child support and spousal support, to custody and visitation. The separation agreement is submitted to the court for approval. However, if the parties are unable to agree to terms, court proceedings will occur, and a judge will determine the outcome of the key issues of the divorce.

4. File Papers

The document that initiates the divorce process is the “complaint,” filed with the appropriate court in the county where one of the spouses resides. It contains information about the date and location of the marriage, residency requirements, grounds for divorce, and the required separation period.

5. Serve Your Spouse

Once the complaint has been accepted by the court, a copy must be “served” upon the other spouse. The spouse can accept service, or a copy has to be delivered and handed to the spouse. This is typically handled by the sheriff’s office or a private process server.

6. File an Answer

The spouse who was served the complaint must file an answer with the court if they are contesting anything in the complaint. Or they can file a waiver of notice if the complaint is not contested.

7. Final Judgment

If the divorce is uncontested, the court will review the submitted separation agreement and approve the terms. If the divorce is contested, the judge will weigh the evidence and decide the final terms.

8. Final Decree

The judge issues a “Final Decree of Divorce” and the marriage is dissolved and subject to the agreement or judgment approved by the court.

Hire an Experienced Virginia Family Law Attorney Today

Even the most amicable of divorces can be complicated. While couples can agree to general terms, they often disagree on the specific details. Divorces are emotional and impact the lives of the couple and their children in major ways. Few are ever “easy.”

Hiring an experienced and compassionate Virginia family law attorney can make the entire process less stressful to you by placing a protective layer between you and your spouse. Your lawyer will advocate for your best interests and those of your children. You also won’t have to worry whether or not you are filing the proper documents or complying with the legal process if you have an attorney to handle it for you.

Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law, has helped hundreds of clients navigate divorces in Lynchburg and Blackstone, Virginia, and the surrounding communities in Campbell, Amherst, and Bedford counties. Gordon is not only dedicated to his family law clients but also accessible to them and compassionate toward them as they struggle with this life-altering event.

If you are considering divorce, have filed, or have been served a complaint, call Gordon today for a consultation.