Which City Do You File for Divorce in Virginia?

Where Do You File for Divorce in Virginia?

Generally, you should file for divorce in Virginia in the city or county where you last cohabitated with your spouse or where your spouse resides, if your spouse is a Virginia resident.1 To get technical, you can file for divorce in any circuit court in Virginia so long as you meet Virginia’s residency requirement and have a valid ground for divorce.2 There is no mandatory rule that says you have to file in a particular jurisdiction or risk dismissal of your case. However, just because you can file anywhere does not mean you should.  If you file your divorce in a place that is not “preferred,” your spouse can object and have the case transferred to another city that the law says is more convenient.3  This can result in a delay in your divorce. 

Where are the Preferred Venues for Filing a Divorce in Virginia?

Virginia Code § 8.01-261(19) states the preferred places, called venues, where you can file for divorce in Virginia.  The purpose behind the rule is to find a place that is convenient to the parties and witnesses.4 It lists the following three choices:

  1. The county or city where you last cohabitated with your spouse;
  2. The county or city where your spouse resides, if your spouse is a Virginia resident; or
  3. The county or city where you reside if you cannot find your spouse after making diligent efforts.5

If you file for divorce in a place other than the choices listed above, your spouse can file an objection.  In general, your spouse must object within 21 days of being served with the initial divorce paperwork (called the divorce complaint).6  Otherwise, the objection will be waived (meaning it does not count) and the case may proceed in the court where you filed.  If your spouse wins the objection, the Court can order you to pay money, including your spouse’s attorney’s fees, to compensate your spouse for the inconvenience, expense, and delay caused by filing in an improper venue.7  Your case will then be transferred to a preferred venue. Even if your spouse does not object, the Court can act on its own whim to transfer your case to a preferred venue.8

6 Reasons to Choose One Preferred Venue Over Another

The following are some reasons you may want to choose one place over the other to file for divorce if you have multiple preferred venues: 

1. One court is more convenient to you.

If your spouse lives in Newport News but you remain at the former marital home in Virginia Beach, you probably will want to file in Virginia Beach out of convenience.  

2. You can get divorced quicker in one court compared to another. 

Some courts have a reputation for scheduling cases quicker than others.  Norfolk Circuit Court, for instance, does not like cases to sit on its docket for too long. It forces parties to come to court for a scheduling hearing if the matter is stagnant.  During the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, some courts such as Chesapeake Circuit Court and Suffolk Circuit Court were incredibly delayed in terms of scheduling trials, whereas other courts did not suffer from this issue.  Talk to your attorney about where you should file for divorce to get the quickest results.   

3. Your attorney prefers a certain court. 

 If the attorney you choose practices primarily in one court and feels he has better results in that court, you likely will want to file in that court. 

4. Your separation agreement states you have to file in a specific location.

Sometimes separation agreements have a forum selection clause that dictates that the divorce has to be filed in a certain court and location.  If that is the case, you should follow your agreement. 

5. Your spouse has ties to a court and you want to avoid filing there.

If your spouse has personal connections to a specific court and feel that you might not get a fair trial, you should consider filing in a different court.  

6. One court provides another strategic advantage.

There may be other strategic reasons to choose one court over the other when filing for divorce.  You should consult with a divorce lawyer to go over your options. 

Does it Ever Make Sense to File for Divorce in a Place that is Not a Preferred Venue?

Sometimes it makes sense to file for divorce in a place that is not a preferred venue.  If you are filing for an uncontested divorce based on a signed separation agreement, your spouse likely does not care where you file.  If that is the case, and you wish to get divorced right away, you should consider filing in the court that will divorce you as quickly as possible. Just make sure that the court you choose does not have a policy against filing uncontested divorces in a non-preferred venue.

Some courts are quicker and easier to finalize divorce cases.  I personally have had a lot of success in recent times filing uncontested divorces in the Chesapeake Circuit Court.  Sometimes, I can complete an uncontested divorce in Chesapeake within a week of filing the final divorce decree and all other required paperwork. 

If you decide to file for divorce in a place that is not a preferred venue, you should make sure to include a transfer clause in the final divorce decree that states the proper venue where any future disputes related to custody, support, and property enforcement will be decided. 


Where you file for divorce in Virginia can have an impact on the outcome of your case and how quickly you can get divorced.  You should talk with an experienced divorce attorney to go over your options.

Discuss Your Filing Options with an Experienced Virginia Beach Divorce Lawyer Today

The purpose of this post was to answer the following questions: Which city or county in Virginia do I file my divorce? Where do I go to file for divorce in Virginia? Hopefully after reading this post, you feel you have answers to these questions. But each case is specific. If you need help going over your options regarding where to file for divorce, please give Jordan Fanney a call at 757-491-1841 or send him a message through his online contact form.  

Related Posts

For information on how to prepare for a Virginia divorce consultation, please see Prepare for Your Virginia Divorce Consultation in Six Steps.

For information about the divorce process in Virginia, please see The Divorce Process in Virginia.

About the Author

Jordan A. Fanney is a top divorce attorney in Virginia Beach

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


  1. Va. Code § 8.01-261(19) ↩︎
  2. See Va. Code § 8.01-258, noting that venue is not jurisdictional. Any court in the Commonwealth has the power to enter a divorce decree if the jurisdictional requirements are met. A party cannot later attack the divorce decree as void based on the choice of venue. ↩︎
  3. Va. Code 8.01-265. ↩︎
  4. Va. Code 8.01-257. ↩︎
  5. To be more precise, Va. § 8.01-261(19) states that “in cases in which an order of publication may be issued against the defendant under § 8.01-316, venue may also be in the county or city in which the plaintiff resides.” ↩︎
  6. Va. Code 8.01-264(A). ↩︎
  7. Va. Code 8.01-266. ↩︎
  8. Va. Code 8.01-264(D). ↩︎

Leave a Comment