What Are the Residency Requirements for a Virginia Divorce?

Moving from state-to-state and divorce often go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, couples move to a new state to try and make a fresh start only to find that their differences have followed them and they are ready to move on. In other cases, one spouse may leave the marital household and go to another state, either temporarily or permanently, to go live with a family member or other person to figure out next steps or start a new life. Because divorce law in the United States is governed primarily by the laws of the separate 50 states, things can get challenging when spouses seek a divorce in a state they just moved to and/or where the spouses are in two different states. Below, we will walk through the residency requirements for a divorce in Virginia.

At Least One Spouse Must Be a Bona Fide Resident of Virginia

For a Virginia court to have jurisdiction over a divorce, at least one of the spouses must have been a “bona fide” (meaning actual) resident of Virginia for at least six months prior to the commencement of the divorce action. This includes armed services members stationed in Virginia for at least six months, and service members deployed in territories or foreign countries who had been a resident of Virginia for six months prior to their deployment.

It is important to note that only one spouse needs to be a resident of Virginia for the court to issue a divorce, and the other spouse does not have to have a connection to Virginia, although the other spouse’s connection to Virginia will affect what the court can order in the case, as we will discuss below.

You should also note that, even if you have not been a resident of Virginia for a full six months, you can still consult with a Virginia family law attorney to take steps to protect yourself prior to commencing suit later, after six-month residency requirement is met.

When the Other Spouse is Not a Resident of Virginia

Again, so long as the one spouse meets the residency requirements, a Virginia court can issue a divorce order effectively ending the marriage even if you were married in another state and even if the other spouse has never stepped foot in Virginia.

But complications can arise when the other spouse is outside of Virginia. The court will need to determine whether it has “personal jurisdiction” over the other spouse to take certain actions, and it will look to certain factors such as whether the other spouse had resided in Virginia at the time the spouses separated or had fathered or conceived a child in Virginia in making this determination.

If the court does have personal jurisdiction over the spouse, then it can issue orders relating to alimony, child support, and equitable distribution of marital property. If there is no personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state spouse, the court can, once again, still issue the divorce and can exert control over marital property located in Virginia, but may be limited with regards to support orders. An experienced Virginia family law attorney can provide further detail regarding how the laws affect your situation.

Experienced Virginia Divorce Attorneys

At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, Virginia, we will guide through your questions regarding your divorce, and help you work towards a favorable outcome in your family law matter. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Select Law Partnersat 540.642.1766.

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Matt Kurylo

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