Divorce Lawyers in Virginia Beach, Virginia

When your marriage comes to an end, the stress can be overwhelming.   You quickly realize that the divorce process is not something you want to go through alone.  You begin to look for an attorney to help you but quickly realize that there are many divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach to choose from.  In this article you will learn the following about Virginia Beach divorce attorneys:  

  1. Learn how to choose the best divorce attorney in Virginia Beach for your needs and circumstances. 
  2. Understand the types of divorces that divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach handle
  3. Comprehend the issues that divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can assist with, and
  4. Learn how a Virginia Beach divorce attorney can help you successfully navigate the divorce process

Tips for Choosing a Virginia Beach Divorce Attorney

You can use the following criteria to help you choose the best divorce lawyer in Virginia Beach for your needs and circumstances:  

  1. Experience.  More experience is generally better but it often comes with a higher hourly rate.  The divorce lawyer you choose should have experience that is specific to divorce. 
  2. Distance.  Divorce attorneys usually bill for travel time; thus, the farther away they are from you the more it costs each time they have to go to court. If your case is in Virginia Beach you typically will want to hire a Virginia Beach divorce attorney or a lawyer within the southside of Hampton Roads.  Local attorneys tend to know the judges better since they are in front of them more often.  Familiarity with the judges and court staff is an important intangible benefit.  
  3. Price.  Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach typically charge by the hour and require an advanced deposit called a retainer.  Make sure you review the fee agreement and understand how the fees work before hiring.  The divorce attorney you choose should fit your budget.  
  4. Honesty.  You want a divorce attorney in Virginia Beach that is going to be honest with you and tell you whether your goals are realistic.  If the lawyer you meet with at a consultation makes lots of big promises that seem unrealistic, they probably are.  Do not waste your money on an attorney that seems untrustworthy and lacks candidness. 
  5. Reachability.  The divorce lawyer you hire should be reachable.  If their caseload is too big, consider looking elsewhere.  Make sure the attorney you hire has the time to give your case the attention it deserves.  
  6. Team.  Make sure the divorce attorney in Virginia Beach you hire has a solid team composed of paralegals, legal assistants, and administrative persons.  For high asset divorce cases, the lawyer you choose should have a strong network of professionals and experts they collaborate with.   
  7. Temperament.  Look for a Virginia Beach divorce lawyer that stays calm under pressure and takes a strategic approach rather than someone who is brash and overly aggressive.  Think fox instead of bulldog.  Foxes tend to win in the long run.  
  8. Reputation.  Do your research first before hiring a divorce attorney in Virginia Beach.  Look to see if they have a disciplinary history with the Virginia State Bar.  Check to see if they have favorable reviews from other clients.  Make sure there are other people who can vouch for the attorney you are considering hiring. 

For more in depth guidance on how to choose the top divorce lawyer in Virginia Beach, see How to Choose the Best Divorce Attorney for You.

Types of Divorces that Divorce Lawyers in Virginia Beach Handle

1. Uncontested divorces

Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach handle uncontested divorces. In an uncontested divorce, the parties settle all issues related to the marriage.  As a result, there is nothing to fight about in court.  To make a case uncontested, the parties generally must enter into a written separation agreement.   A Virginia Beach divorce attorney can draft a separation agreement for you that best protects your interests.  A separation agreement is a binding contract that can be hard to get out of, especially when it comes to the division of property and in many cases, spousal support as well.  Thus, it is important to have an attorney draft or review the agreement to avoid issues down the road.   

Uncontested divorces are typically no-fault divorces based on the couple living separate and apart for the required time period.  If there are minor children, the parties must wait one year before they can file for divorce.  If there are no minor children and the parties have a signed separation agreement that resolves all issues related to the marriage, they can file for divorce in as little as six months.  

Uncontested divorces typically cost substantially less than contested divorces. There is generally no need to go to court when the divorce is uncontested.  The person asking for the divorce can submit an affidavit that certifies that the couple has lived separate and apart for the required time period and states other foundational elements in lieu of having to make a court appearance.  The uncontested divorce process is simpler than going through a contested divorce, but it still is a good idea to hire a divorce lawyer in Virginia Beach to help you navigate the process. There are many rules that have to be followed, and failure to understand and follow the rules can result in the Court rejecting the final divorce order. 

2. Contested divorces

Many divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach handle contested divorces.  With a contested divorce, there is at least one issue related to the marriage that the parties have not settled.  This could include the grounds of divorce, division of property, child custody and parenting arrangements, spousal support or child support.  

In a contested divorce case, the parties must go through the court litigation process.  Unless a settlement is reached, the judge will decide the issues in the case.  Contested divorces often take longer and can be much more expensive than uncontested divorces.  It is essential to hire a well qualified Virginia Beach divorce attorney to represent you when your case is contested.  You likely will have to attend one or more court appearances.  In court, the judge will act as a referee and will enforce the Virginia rules of evidence.  Without an attorney, you will not understand the rules you have to follow to present documents and communicate important information to the judge.  As a result, the judge may prohibit you from presenting essential evidence.

3. Military divorces

Some divorce attorneys in Virginia Beach are well versed on the specific issues that affect military members going through divorce.  Virginia divorces involving one or more military members occur in the same state courts as other Virginia divorces.  There are no special military courts that handle divorces.  

Despite the similarities with civilian divorces, there are special issues specific to military divorces.  Having a Virginia Beach divorce attorney that understands these issues is crucial. Some of the special issues specific to military divorces include: 

  1. Residency requirements for filing for divorce. Va. Code § 20-97
  2. Division of military retirement under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA)
  3. Survivor benefit plans
  4. Health insurance coverage after divorce.
  5. Custody issues related to deployment and permanent change of station (PCS)
  6. Virginia military parents equal protection act  Va. Code 20-124.7 through § 20-124.10
  7. Rights to suspend the divorce proceedings under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

4. High asset divorces

Some divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach specialize in high asset divorces.  A high asset divorce typically involves over one million dollars worth of liquid assets.  High asset divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can help you resolve the following issues that frequently come up when individuals have a high net worth:

  1. Businesses
  2. Antiques and collectibles
  3. Yachts and luxury vehicles
  4. Investment real estate owned in other states and countries
  5. Hidden assets
  6. Tracing inheritance money and other separate assets
  7. Factoring in private school expenses as part of child support
  8. Use of experts in determining spousal support
  9. Tax issues
  10. Exotic assets and executive compensation and benefits
  11. Offshore bank accounts
  12. Maintaining confidentiality
  13. Challenging or enforcing prenuptial agreements

Having knowledgeable experts is essential in high asset divorce cases.  Also important is pairing estate planning with the divorce process.  Having a Virginia Beach divorce lawyer that is experienced with high asset divorces and that has adequate support staff and connection with experts is crucial.  

Issues that Divorce Lawyers in Virginia Beach Can Help With

1. Grounds of divorce

Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can help you choose the best ground for filing for divorce.  The possible grounds for divorce in Virginia include the following:

  1. No fault divorce.  You can file for a no-fault divorce if you live separate from your spouse for one year.  The period is shortened to six months if you have a signed separation agreement and no minor children.
  2. Adultery, sodomy, or buggery.  You can file for divorce immediately based on adultery if your spouse has sexual intercourse with someone else during the marriage.  Likewise, you can immediately file for divorce for sodomy or buggery if your spouse has oral or anal sex with someone else or has sexual relations with an animal.  Before filing for adultery or any other fault-based ground, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable Virginia Beach divorce attorney.  Fault allegations can increase the cost of divorce litigation and diminish the chances of settlement.  Sometimes filing based on fault is in a person’s best interests but depending on the degree of fault and the expected effect on the outcome of the case it may not be worth it.  
  3. Cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt.  You can seek a divorce based on cruelty or reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt after a year passes from the date of the last cruel act.  “Cruelty” includes successive acts of conduct that tends to bodily harm and renders cohabitation unsafe.  It also can include a single act of violence if such action “is so severe and atrocious as to endanger life, or unless the act indicates an intention to do serious bodily harm or causes reasonable apprehension of serious danger in the future, or the precedent or attendant circumstances show that the acts are likely to be repeated.”  DeMott v. DeMott, 198 Va. 22 (1956).  Emotional cruelty alone generally is not enough to constitute cruelty unless it is so severe that it has endangered the spouse’s health.  Ringgold v. Ringgold, 128 Va. 485, 498 (1920).  A Virginia Beach divorce attorney can help you decide whether the facts of your case qualify for a cruelty based divorce.  Additionally, a divorce lawyer in Virginia Beach can file a motion to dismiss, called a demurrer, if the allegations against you are legally insufficient to establish cruelty.  
  1. Desertion and abandonment.  You must wait a year before you can be granted a divorce based upon desertion and abandonment.  Desertion involves the withdrawal from the duties of the marriage with the intent to desert.  Withholding sex alone is not enough to constitute desertion if other important marital duties are upheld.  Sometimes there is a fine line between desertion and a no-fault separation.  The line is drawn clearly where there is evidence that both parties agreed to the separation.  If the separation is by mutual consent, then desertion does not exist. Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can analyze your circumstances and determine whether your case qualifies for desertion or simply a no-fault separation.
  1. Felony confinement after conviction.  You can file for a divorce right away if your spouse “has been convicted of a felony, sentenced to confinement for more than one year and confined for such felony subsequent to such conviction.”  Va. Code 20-91(A)(3).

2. Division of property

A Virginia Beach divorce attorney can help ensure that you receive a fair division of marital property and debts.  Virginia is an equitable distribution state.  Marital property is divided based on equitable principles including:

  1. Contributions to the well-being of the family 
  2. Contributions in the acquisition and maintenance of marital property
  3. The length of the marriage
  4. The ages and health conditions of the parties
  5. The factors that led to the breakdown of the marriage
  6. How and when items of marital property were obtained
  7. The debts and liabilities of the parties
  8. The liquid and nonliquid character of all marital property
  9. Tax consequences
  10. Use of marital property for a nonmarital purpose in anticipation of separation or divorce.  
  11. Other factors needed to arrive at a fair award

Virginia courts will weigh the above factors in distributing marital property.  No one factor is determinative.  Unlike community property states, there is no presumption that marital property must be distributed 50/50; however, a 50/50 distribution (or something close to it) is a very common outcome.  

Virginia courts can only distribute marital property in a divorce.  Separate property is out of bounds.  Separate property includes: (1) inheritance, (2) gifts meant for just one spouse, and (3) property obtained prior to marriage.  Marital property generally is property obtained during the marriage that is not separate property.  There is a presumption that jointly titled property is marital property, but this presumption can be overcome in some cases. Sometimes property can be classified as part marital and part separate (also known as hybrid property).  Equitable distribution laws can be complex.  Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can ensure your property is classified properly and protect your separate property from division by a Virginia court.   

3. Child custody and visitation

When minor children are involved, Virginia courts can determine custody and visitation arrangements as part of the divorce case.  Decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. Virginia courts are required to weigh 10 factors when determining what arrangements are in the best interests of the child.  To learn more about these 10 factors please see How to Get Sole Custody in Virginia.  Child custody is divided into legal custody (a parent’s right to make decisions concerning their children’s upbringing) and physical custody (where the child lives).  Virginia courts can also award visitation (parenting time). 

Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can advocate for you to have specified legal and physical custody rights and parenting time as part of the final divorce decree.  Temporary custody can also be awarded pending the finalization of the divorce case. 

4. Spousal support

Spousal support may be ordered if a party is eligible for support and his or her financial situation makes an award equitable.  Parties are not eligible for spousal support if they are guilty of adultery during the marriage, unless denial of support would make them destitute. 

Virginia courts may order temporary spousal support pending the divorce, and can also order ongoing spousal support after the divorce is finalized.  Temporary spousal support, also called pendente lite spousal support, is determined based on a formula unless the parties’ combined income exceeds $10,000.00 per month.  

Post divorce spousal support is determined based on several statutory factors listed in Virginia Code § 20-107.1, which courts must review and weigh.  Some of these factors include:

  1. The financial needs of a party and the other party’s ability to pay
  2. The income and expenses of the parties
  3. The standard of living during the marriage
  4. The length of the marriage
  5. Whether it would be unreasonable for one party to work outside of the home due to the age, mental or physical condition or other circumstances of any child of the parties
  6. Each spouse’s earning capacity, including a situation where one spouse has been out of the work force during the marriage. 
  7. Each spouse’s property interests after the division of property in the divorce
  8. The factors that led to the breakdown of the marriage and any other factors that are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.  

Post-divorce spousal support can be for a defined duration (such as five years) or for an indefinite period.  Whether the support is time limited or not, either party generally has the right to petition the court for a change in the amount of spousal support and the duration of the award if a material change in circumstances exists prior to the end of the support award.  The exception is when the parties enter into a separation agreement that specifically states that the support amount and duration cannot be modified.   

Unlike child support awards, post-divorce spousal support awards are not based on a simple formula.  Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can help maximize your chances of getting a fair outcome.  

5. Child support

Child support in Virginia is typically determined based on a formula.  The formula takes into account the following main factors:

  1. The number of days in the year each parent has the child. Shared guidelines are used when each parent has the child for 91 days or more.
  2. The number of other adopted/natural children living with each parent.
  3. Child support paid for a child from a different relationship based on a separate order
  4. Monthly gross income of each party
  5. Spousal support paid between the parties
  6. Spousal support received from other spouses
  7. Payment of health, dental and vision expenses
  8. Work-related childcare expenses

If both parties are adequately employed and have non-complex income, the child support calculation is usually easy and is not a major source of contention.  A  non-complex income situation exists where a party earns a steady salary as their only source of income.  Recent pay stubs are used to run the child support guideline calculations.  

Child support calculations are not always an easy endeavor.  In more complicated situations, divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can provide their expertise to make sure the calculation is done properly.  

Although it is best to have a Virginia Beach divorce attorney do the calculation, you can preview the likely amount you will have to pay or receive by using a child support guideline calculator.  

Sometimes a strict guideline calculation leads to an unfair or inappropriate amount of child support.  In those cases, the judge is allowed to deviate from the guidelines to reach a just result.  Examples of situations that may justify a deviation include:

  1. Payment of private school tuition, especially where there is a history of attending private school.
  2. A parent is unemployed or underemployed.
  3. The special needs of a child creates high therapy or other medical expenses.
  4. There is a written agreement to pay an amount of child support that differs from the guideline amount.

Occasionally expert witnesses are needed to show how much money a party is capable of making.  Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can hire experts to make sure important evidence regarding income is considered by the court.  

6. Attorney’s Fees

Divorce can be an expensive endeavor.  Attorneys are not cheap, and when one spouse has significantly more financial resources than the other it makes sense to require the higher earner to contribute to the attorney’s fees of the disadvantaged party.  Luckily, Virginia law gives broad discretion for judges to do so after considering the circumstances and equities of the case.  Factors that courts use to determine whether to award contribution of attorney’s fees include:

  1. The financial positions of the parties
  2. Whether one party unnecessarily increased the cost of litigation
  3. The degree of fault in the breakdown of the marriage
  4. Unwillingness to negotiate settlement in good faith

If you are in a disadvantaged position financially, a Virginia Beach divorce attorney can ask the Court to order the other party to contribute to your attorney’s fees at the outset of the case through a pendente lite motion.  If the case goes to trial, your attorney also can request reimbursement of your reasonable attorney’s fees.  

Divorce Lawyers in Virginia Beach Can Help You Navigate the Divorce Process

The divorce process in Virginia is complex.  A Virginia Beach divorce lawyer can help you navigate the process efficiently and maximize the chance that you get the best possible result.  

Filing for divorce

A good Virginia Beach divorce attorney will work to achieve a fair and beneficial settlement for you as a primary goal.  If the other side does not want to be reasonable, then your attorney can file a divorce complaint with an appropriate Virginia circuit court to initiate the court process. Typically, the divorce is filed in the city or county where the parties last lived together as a married couple or the city or county where the defendant (the person being served with the divorce) resides.  Sometimes other options are available.  For more information, see Which City Do You File for Divorce in Virginia.  Divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach can advise you on the best place to file your divorce.  

Responding to the divorce complaint

Depending on the ground of divorce, you may have to wait a period of time before the divorce can be filed.  After the divorce complaint is filed, the other side gets the opportunity to respond to the complaint and state any defenses they have.  The case then proceeds through the discovery phase.  


During the discovery phase, each side has to disclose financial information, documents and other information relevant to the divorce.  After financial information is exchanged, the case goes to trial unless a settlement occurs prior to the trial date.  


At the divorce trial, your Virginia Beach divorce attorney gets to put forth evidence and make arguments about how property should be divided, how much support should be paid, and if children are involved, which parenting arrangements are best for the children.   The judge then makes a decision on all of the issues and signs a court order called the final decree of divorce.  The final decree of divorce (also called a final divorce order or final divorce decree) is the court document that makes the divorce official. 

For an in depth look at the divorce process, please see A Five Step Guide to the Divorce Process in Virginia.

Contact an Experienced Virginia Beach Divorce Attorney Today

There are many divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach.  See if Jordan A. Fanney is the right fit for you by scheduling a consultation with him.   Give him a call at 757-499-1841 or leave him a message through his online contact form.

About Jordan A. Fanney – Virginia Beach Divorce Attorney

Jordan A. Fanney is one of many divorce lawyers in Virginia Beach

Jordan A. Fanney, Esq. is a skilled divorce attorney in Virginia Beach who works for Poole Brooke Plumlee PC.  He practices family law and divorce in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News and the surrounding area.
Read Full Bio