A Norfolk divorce lawyer begins a divorce action by filing a Complaint for divorce in the Circuit Court. At least one party must be a bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia for six months preceding the commencement of the suit. The venue or location of the Circuit Court for the divorce action is generally based upon preferred or permissible jurisdiction. Permissible jurisdiction is in any Circuit Court in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Preferred jurisdiction is where the parties last cohabited as husband and wife; at the option of the plaintiff, where the spouse resides; or if the spouse’s whereabouts are unknown or if the spouse resides out of state, where the plaintiff resides.
The defendant will generally file an Answer and/or Counterclaim. In the Answer, the defendant will admit or deny the allegations in the plaintiff’s Answer. In the Counterclaim, the defendant may allege his or her facts for a divorce action. If a Counterclaim is filed, the plaintiff will file an Answer to the Counterclaim, where he or she admits or denies the allegations in the Counterclaim.
To have jurisdiction over the defendant in a bilateral divorce and the ability to resolve certain issues ancillary to the divorce (e.g. support or equitable distribution), the court must determine if personal jurisdiction over the defendant exists. To obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant, both the plaintiff and the defendant must have a physical presence before the forum court; the defendant must make a general appearance before the court through counsel; or have personal jurisdiction over the defendant by Virginia’s long arm statute.
The Virginia long arm statute is § 8.01-328.1 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. The statute delineates when personal jurisdiction over a person may be exercised:
A. A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action arising from the person’s:
B. Using a computer or computer network located in the Commonwealth shall constitute an act in the Commonwealth. For purposes of this subsection, “use” and “computer network” shall have the same meanings as those contained in § 18.2-152.2.
C. When jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, only a cause of action arising from acts enumerated in this section may be asserted against him; however, nothing contained in this chapter shall limit, restrict or otherwise affect the jurisdiction of any court of this Commonwealth over foreign corporations which are subject to service of process pursuant to the provisions of any other statute.
After the divorce action is filed, counsel for the parties will generally engage in discovery. Discovery might include propounding interrogatories, questions to be answered under oath; request for admissions; and depositions.
After the discovery is completed, counsel will generally set the matter for a hearing. However, counsel will want to insure that the statutory time period has been satisfied for a divorce a vinculo matrimonii, or final divorce. If only a divorce from bed and board is obtained, the parties shall remain separated and have their persons and property protected. But, neither party may remarry under a divorce from bed and board.
At the conclusion of the divorce hearing and if proper, the court will enter a decree of divorce. The decree of divorce a vinculo matrimonii terminates the marriage and either party will be free to remarry. However, counsel should advise their clients not to remarry until after 30 days have lapsed and no appeal or other pleading is filed.
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