How long do I have to wait before filing for a divorce in Virginia?

It is one of the most frequently asked questions when someone is considering separation or divorce, and of course, you will need to consult with an attorney to review the particulars of your individual situation, but some general guidance is fairly easy to find.

It is worth noting that before you can start the divorce process, Virginia’s residency requirements must be met – that is, one of the spouses must have been a resident of Virginia for at least 6 months prior to the filing.  See Virginia Code, Section 20-97. Members of the armed forces satisfy the residency requirement if they are stationed in Virginia for at least 6 months, including living on a ship with a Virginia home port or living on a federally controlled air, naval, or military base located within Virginia. Members of the armed forces who are stationed outside of the U.S. can meet the residency requirement by showing they lived in Virginia for six months immediately before the foreign assignment began.

Assuming the residency requirements are met, the ground (or grounds) of divorce will dictate the waiting period required. A divorce based on the ground that the parties have lived separate and apart from one another – typically referred to as “no-fault” grounds – may be granted after one (1) year after separation. A no-fault divorce may be granted after six (6) months’ separation if there are no minor children and the parties have an executed agreement. A party seeking a divorce on fault grounds will typically need not wait before filing suit. The Virginia State Bar has published a fairly concise explanation here.