TOP SIX QUESTIONS FOR VIRGINIA DIVORCE LAWYERS
Anthony Montagna is one of the leading Divorce Lawyers in Virginia. On this page, he answers the top six questions for Divorce Lawyers in Virginia. However, while you may find this information useful, you should not rely on this page as legal advice. After reading this page, please call Anthony at 757-625-3500 to schedule an appointment and to receive helpful legal advice.
As one of the top Virginia Divorce lawyers, Anthony has been helping men and women with contested and uncontested divorces in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Chesapeake and all of Hampton Roads for over 22 years. Many of Anthony’s clients are military people, union workers, retirees, and students.
UNION WORKERS WELCOME
I. WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE FROM THE BOND OF MATRIMONY?
Pursuant to § 20-91 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended:
A. A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be decreed:
(1) For adultery; or for sodomy or buggery committed outside the marriage;
(3) Where either of the parties subsequent to the marriage has been convicted of a felony, sentenced to confinement for more than one year and confined for such felony subsequent to such conviction, and cohabitation has not been resumed after knowledge of such confinement (in which case no pardon granted to the party so sentenced shall restore such party to his or her conjugal rights);
(6) Where either party has been guilty of cruelty, caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willfully deserted or abandoned the other, such divorce may be decreed to the innocent party after a period of one year from the date of such act; or
(9)(a) On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. In any case where the parties have entered into a separation agreement and there are no minor children either born of the parties, born of either party and adopted by the other or adopted by both parties, a divorce may be decreed on application if and when the husband and wife have lived separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months. A plea of res adjudicata or of recrimination with respect to any other provision of this section shall not be a bar to either party obtaining a divorce on this ground; nor shall it be a bar that either party has been adjudged insane, either before or after such separation has commenced, but at the expiration of one year or six months, whichever is applicable, from the commencement of such separation, the grounds for divorce shall be deemed to be complete, and the committee of the insane defendant, if there be one, shall be made a party to the cause, or if there be no committee, then the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the insane defendant.
(b) This subdivision (9) shall apply whether the separation commenced prior to its enactment or shall commence thereafter. Where otherwise valid, any decree of divorce hereinbefore entered by any court having equity jurisdiction pursuant to this subdivision (9), not appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, is hereby declared valid according to the terms of said decree notwithstanding the insanity of a party thereto.
(c) A decree of divorce granted pursuant to this subdivision (9) shall in no way lessen any obligation any party may otherwise have to support the spouse unless such party shall prove that there exists in the favor of such party some other ground of divorce under this section or § 20-95.
B. A decree of divorce shall include each party’s social security number, or other control number issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to § 46.2-342.
II. WHAT ARE THE DOMICILE AND RESIDENTIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR ANNULLMENT AND DIVORCE?
Pursuant to Section 20-97 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended, no suit for annulling a marriage or for divorce shall be maintainable, unless one of the parties is and has been an actual bona fide resident and domiciliary of this Commonwealth for at least six months preceding the commencement of the suit; nor shall any suit for affirming a marriage be maintainable, unless one of the parties be domiciled in, and is and has been an actual bona fide resident of this Commonwealth at the time of bringing such suit.
For the purposes of this section only:
1. If a member of the armed forces of the United States has been stationed or resided in this Commonwealth and has lived for a period of six months or more in this Commonwealth next preceding the commencement of the suit, then such person shall be presumed to be domiciled in and to have been a bona fide resident of this Commonwealth during such period of time.
2. Being stationed or residing in the Commonwealth includes, but is not limited to, a member of the armed forces being stationed or residing upon a ship having its home port in this Commonwealth or at an air, naval or military base located within this Commonwealth over which the United States enjoys exclusive federal jurisdiction.
3. Any member of the armed forces of the United States or any foreign service officer of the United States who (i) at the time the suit is commenced is, or immediately preceding such suit was, stationed in any territory or foreign country and (ii) was domiciled in the Commonwealth for the six month period immediately preceding his being stationed in such territory or country, shall be deemed to have been domiciled in and to have been a bona fide resident of the Commonwealth during the six months preceding commencement of a suit for annulment or divorce.
4. Upon separation of the husband and wife, the wife may establish her own and separate domicile, though the separation may have been caused under such circumstances as would entitle the wife to a divorce or annulment.
III. WHAT DOES RESIDENCE MEAN?
In general terms, it essentially means the dwelling place of the person. However, it may be his temporary or permanent abode.
IV. WHAT DOES DOMICILE MEAN?
For a person to be domiciled in a state, the individual must be a resident and the person must intend to stay there permanently.
V. HOW DOES A COURT DISTRIBUTE PROPERTY PURSUANT TO A DIVORCE?
Pursuant to Section 20-107.3 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended the Court may decree as to property and debts of the parties:
A. Upon decreeing the dissolution of a marriage, and also upon decreeing a divorce from the bond of matrimony, or upon the filing with the court as provided in subsection J of a certified copy of a final divorce decree obtained without the Commonwealth, the court, upon request of either party, (i) shall determine the legal title as between the parties, and the ownership and value of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, of the parties and shall consider which of such property is separate property, which is marital property, and which is part separate and part marital property in accordance with subdivision A 3 and (ii) shall determine the nature of all debts of the parties, or either of them, and shall consider which of such debts is separate debt and which is marital debt. The court shall determine the value of any such property as of the date of the evidentiary hearing on the evaluation issue. The court shall determine the amount of any such debt as of the date of the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intends that the separation be permanent, and the extent to which such debt has increased or decreased from the date of separation until the date of the evidentiary hearing. Upon motion of either party made no less than 21 days before the evidentiary hearing the court may, for good cause shown, in order to attain the ends of justice, order that a different valuation date be used. The court, on the motion of either party, may retain jurisdiction in the final decree of divorce to adjudicate the remedy provided by this section when the court determines that such action is clearly necessary, and all decrees heretofore entered retaining such jurisdiction are validated.
1. Separate property is (i) all property, real and personal, acquired by either party before the marriage; (ii) all property acquired during the marriage by bequest, devise, descent, survivorship or gift from a source other than the other party; (iii) all property acquired during the marriage in exchange for or from the proceeds of sale of separate property, provided that such property acquired during the marriage is maintained as separate property; and (iv) that part of any property classified as separate pursuant to subdivision A 3. Income received from separate property during the marriage is separate property if not attributable to the personal effort of either party. The increase in value of separate property during the marriage is separate property, unless marital property or the personal efforts of either party have contributed to such increases and then only to the extent of the increases in value attributable to such contributions. The personal efforts of either party must be significant and result in substantial appreciation of the separate property if any increase in value attributable thereto is to be considered marital property.
2. Marital property is (i) all property titled in the names of both parties, whether as joint tenants, tenants by the entirety or otherwise, except as provided by subdivision A 3, (ii) that part of any property classified as marital pursuant to subdivision A 3, or (iii) all other property acquired by each party during the marriage which is not separate property as defined above. All property including that portion of pensions, profit-sharing or deferred compensation or retirement plans of whatever nature, acquired by either spouse during the marriage, and before the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intends that the separation be permanent, is presumed to be marital property in the absence of satisfactory evidence that it is separate property. For purposes of this section marital property is presumed to be jointly owned unless there is a deed, title or other clear indicia that it is not jointly owned.
3. The court shall classify property as part marital property and part separate property as follows:
a. In the case of income received from separate property during the marriage, such income shall be marital property only to the extent it is attributable to the personal efforts of either party. In the case of the increase in value of separate property during the marriage, such increase in value shall be marital property only to the extent that marital property or the personal efforts of either party have contributed to such increases, provided that any such personal efforts must be significant and result in substantial appreciation of the separate property.
For purposes of this subdivision, the nonowning spouse shall bear the burden of proving that (i) contributions of marital property or personal effort were made and (ii) the separate property increased in value. Once this burden of proof is met, the owning spouse shall bear the burden of proving that the increase in value or some portion thereof was not caused by contributions of marital property or personal effort.
“Personal effort” of a party shall be deemed to be labor, effort, inventiveness, physical or intellectual skill, creativity, or managerial, promotional or marketing activity applied directly to the separate property of either party.
b. In the case of any pension, profit-sharing, or deferred compensation plan or retirement benefit, the marital share as defined in subsection G shall be marital property.
c. In the case of any personal injury or workers’ compensation recovery of either party, the marital share as defined in subsection H shall be marital property.
d. When marital property and separate property are commingled by contributing one category of property to another, resulting in the loss of identity of the contributed property, the classification of the contributed property shall be transmuted to the category of property receiving the contribution. However, to the extent the contributed property is retraceable by a preponderance of the evidence and was not a gift, such contributed property shall retain its original classification.
e. When marital property and separate property are commingled into newly acquired property resulting in the loss of identity of the contributing properties, the commingled property shall be deemed transmuted to marital property. However, to the extent the contributed property is retraceable by a preponderance of the evidence and was not a gift, the contributed property shall retain its original classification.
f. When separate property is retitled in the joint names of the parties, the retitled property shall be deemed transmuted to marital property. However, to the extent the property is retraceable by a preponderance of the evidence and was not a gift, the retitled property shall retain its original classification.
g. When the separate property of one party is commingled into the separate property of the other party, or the separate property of each party is commingled into newly acquired property, to the extent the contributed property is retraceable by a preponderance of the evidence and was not a gift, each party shall be reimbursed the value of the contributed property in any award made pursuant to this section.
h. Subdivisions A 3 d, e and f shall apply to jointly owned property. No presumption of gift shall arise under this section where (i) separate property is commingled with jointly owned property; (ii) newly acquired property is conveyed into joint ownership; or (iii) existing property is conveyed or retitled into joint ownership. For purposes of this subdivision A 3, property is jointly owned when it is titled in the name of both parties, whether as joint tenants, tenants by the entireties, or otherwise.
4. Separate debt is (i) all debt incurred by either party before the marriage, (ii) all debt incurred by either party after the date of the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intends that the separation be permanent, and (iii) that part of any debt classified as separate pursuant to subdivision A 5. However, to the extent that a party can show by a preponderance of the evidence that the debt was incurred for the benefit of the marriage or family, the court may designate the debt as marital.
5. Marital debt is (i) all debt incurred in the joint names of the parties before the date of the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intends that the separation be permanent, whether incurred before or after the date of the marriage, and (ii) all debt incurred in either party’s name after the date of the marriage and before the date of the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intends that the separation be permanent. However, to the extent that a party can show by a preponderance of the evidence that the debt, or a portion thereof, was incurred, or the proceeds secured by incurring the debt were used, in whole or in part, for a nonmarital purpose, the court may designate the entire debt as separate or a portion of the debt as marital and a portion of the debt as separate.
B. For the purposes of this section only, both parties shall be deemed to have rights and interests in the marital property. However, such interests and rights shall not attach to the legal title of such property and are only to be used as a consideration in determining a monetary award, if any, as provided in this section.
C. Except as provided in subsection G, the court shall have no authority to order the division or transfer of separate property or marital property, or separate or marital debt, which is not jointly owned or owed. The court may, based upon the factors listed in subsection E, divide or transfer or order the division or transfer, or both, of jointly owned marital property, jointly owed marital debt, or any part thereof. The court shall also have the authority to apportion and order the payment of the debts of the parties, or either of them, that are incurred prior to the dissolution of the marriage, based upon the factors listed in subsection E.
As a means of dividing or transferring the jointly owned marital property, the court may transfer or order the transfer of real or personal property or any interest therein to one of the parties, permit either party to purchase the interest of the other and direct the allocation of the proceeds, provided the party purchasing the interest of the other agrees to assume any indebtedness secured by the property, or order its sale by private sale by the parties, through such agent as the court shall direct, or by public sale as the court shall direct without the necessity for partition. All decrees entered prior to July 1, 1991, which are final and not subject to further proceedings on appeal as of that date, which divide or transfer or order the division or transfer of property directly between the parties are hereby validated and deemed self-executing. All orders or decrees which divide or transfer or order division or transfer of real property between the parties shall be recorded and indexed in the names of the parties in the appropriate grantor and grantee indexes in the land records in the clerk’s office of the circuit court of the county or city in which the property is located.
D. In addition, based upon (i) the equities and the rights and interests of each party in the marital property, and (ii) the factors listed in subsection E, the court has the power to grant a monetary award, payable either in a lump sum or over a period of time in fixed amounts, to either party. The party against whom a monetary award is made may satisfy the award, in whole or in part, by conveyance of property, subject to the approval of the court. An award entered pursuant to this subsection shall constitute a judgment within the meaning of § 8.01-426 and shall not be docketed by the clerk unless the decree so directs. An award entered pursuant to this subsection may be enforceable in the same manner as any other money judgment. The provisions of § 8.01-382, relating to interest on judgments, shall apply unless the court orders otherwise.
Any marital property, which has been considered or ordered transferred in granting the monetary award under this section, shall not thereafter be the subject of a suit between the same parties to transfer title or possession of such property.
E. The amount of any division or transfer of jointly owned marital property, and the amount of any monetary award, the apportionment of marital debts, and the method of payment shall be determined by the court after consideration of the following factors:
1. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
2. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties;
3. The duration of the marriage;
4. The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
5. The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including any ground for divorce under the provisions of subdivisions (1), (3) or (6) of § 20-91 or § 20-95;
6. How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired;
7. The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
8. The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property;
9. The tax consequences to each party;
10. The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
11. Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.
F. The court shall determine the amount of any such monetary award without regard to maintenance and support awarded for either party or support for the minor children of both parties and shall, after or at the time of such determination and upon motion of either party, consider whether an order for support and maintenance of a spouse or children shall be entered or, if previously entered, whether such order shall be modified or vacated.
G. In addition to the monetary award made pursuant to subsection D, and upon consideration of the factors set forth in subsection E:
1. The court may direct payment of a percentage of the marital share of any pension, profit-sharing or deferred compensation plan or retirement benefits, whether vested or nonvested, which constitutes marital property and whether payable in a lump sum or over a period of time. The court may order direct payment of such percentage of the marital share by direct assignment to a party from the employer trustee, plan administrator or other holder of the benefits. However, the court shall only direct that payment be made as such benefits are payable. No such payment shall exceed 50 percent of the marital share of the cash benefits actually received by the party against whom such award is made. “Marital share” means that portion of the total interest, the right to which was earned during the marriage and before the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intended that the separation be permanent.
2. To the extent permitted by federal or other applicable law, the court may order a party to designate a spouse or former spouse as irrevocable beneficiary during the lifetime of the beneficiary of all or a portion of any survivor benefit or annuity plan of whatsoever nature, but not to include a life insurance policy. The court, in its discretion, shall determine as between the parties, who shall bear the costs of maintaining such plan.
H. In addition to the monetary award made pursuant to subsection D, and upon consideration of the factors set forth in subsection E, the court may direct payment of a percentage of the marital share of any personal injury or workers’ compensation recovery of either party, whether such recovery is payable in a lump sum or over a period of time. However, the court shall only direct that payment be made as such recovery is payable, whether by settlement, jury award, court award, or otherwise. “Marital share” means that part of the total personal injury or workers’ compensation recovery attributable to lost wages or medical expenses to the extent not covered by health insurance accruing during the marriage and before the last separation of the parties, if at such time or thereafter at least one of the parties intended that the separation be permanent.
I. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the affirmation, ratification and incorporation in a decree of an agreement between the parties pursuant to §§ 20-109 and 20-109.1. Agreements, otherwise valid as contracts, entered into between spouses prior to the marriage shall be recognized and enforceable.
J. A court of proper jurisdiction under § 20-96 may exercise the powers conferred by this section after a court of a foreign jurisdiction has decreed a dissolution of a marriage or a divorce from the bond of matrimony, if (i) one of the parties was domiciled in this Commonwealth when the foreign proceedings were commenced, (ii) the foreign court did not have personal jurisdiction over the party domiciled in the Commonwealth, (iii) the proceeding is initiated within two years of receipt of notice of the foreign decree by the party domiciled in the Commonwealth, and (iv) the court obtains personal jurisdiction over the parties pursuant to subdivision A 9 of § 8.01-328.1, or in any other manner permitted by law.
K. The court shall have the continuing authority and jurisdiction to make any additional orders necessary to effectuate and enforce any order entered pursuant to this section, including the authority to:
1. Order a date certain for transfer or division of any jointly owned property under subsection C or payment of any monetary award under subsection D;
2. Punish as contempt of court any willful failure of a party to comply with the provisions of any order made by the court under this section;
3. Appoint a special commissioner to transfer any property under subsection C where a party refuses to comply with the order of the court to transfer such property; and
4. Modify any order entered in a case filed on or after July 1, 1982, intended to affect or divide any pension, profit-sharing or deferred compensation plan or retirement benefits pursuant to the United States Internal Revenue Code or other applicable federal laws, only for the purpose of establishing or maintaining the order as a qualified domestic relations order or to revise or conform its terms so as to effectuate the expressed intent of the order.
L. If it appears upon or after the entry of a final decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony that neither party resides in the city or county of the circuit court that entered the decree, the court may, on the motion of any party or on its own motion, transfer to the circuit court for the city or county where either party resides the authority to make additional orders pursuant to subsection K or to carry out or enforce any stipulation, contract, or agreement between the parties that has been affirmed, ratified, and incorporated by reference pursuant to § 20-109.1.
VI. WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW IF I WANT CUSTODY OF MY CHILD?
First, one must know that there is physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody essential describes where and with whom the child lives. Legal custody essentially involves a responsibility for care and control of and the authority to make decisions concerning the child. Second, one must understand that the court will make a custody determination based on the best interests of the child. Third, the court will consider the factors of Section 124.3 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended:
1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;
2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;
5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
9. Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228 or sexual abuse. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.