New Notice Requirements and Procedure Changes for Virginia Divorces

The decision to separate from a spouse is never easy, but once the decision has been made, what comes next? In the summer of 2012, the divorce procedure in Virginia changed. The new notice requirements make the process easier in some cases.

A general requirement before commencing a Virginia divorce is that one spouse has to have been a resident of Virginia for at least six months before filing. Separation of a certain amount of time is also required, based on whether there are children or a written property settlement, for no-fault divorces. An experienced Northern Virginia divorce attorney can explain all initial service and filing requirements after reviewing a person's individual circumstances.

Divorce actions are civil cases and subject to civil procedural rules. Filing and service of the Complaint for divorce starts the process that will ultimately end a marriage with a final divorce order. This means a copy of the Complaint for divorce is delivered to a spouse. If a spouse lives in another state, the filing spouse can serve him or her in the state where he or she resides. There are other ways to obtain service, if a person no longer knows where his or her former spouse resides.

Change Allows for Streamlined Default Divorces

As of July 1, 2012, Virginia law changed in regard to what happens if a former spouse does not respond after service of the Complaint for divorce. Prior to this summer, a former spouse who refused to respond could hold up the process making it more difficult to obtain a final divorce order.

An amendment to Virginia law now allows for a divorce order to be entered without further notice, if there is no response. The statute says in relevant part that if a spouse (the defendant) was properly served "and the defendant has failed to file an answer to the suit or otherwise appear within the time allowed by law, no further notice to take depositions is required to be served on the defendant and the court may enter an order or final decree without further notice to the defendant."

The new provision means that an ex-spouse can no longer delay a final divorce order by ignoring service and failing to respond. Corroborating evidence will still need to be presented even when the issues are uncontested, but the process will likely be smoother without further delays for service of additional notices.

If you have separated from a former spouse and are considering filing for divorce, contact a family law attorney to discuss the next steps in the process. Even with the change in the law, the divorce process is complicated and mistakes can have long ranging consequences.