Virginia Divorce Rules (Selected)


    1. Commencement.

      A civil action shall be commenced by filing a complaint in the clerk’s office. The action is then instituted and pending as to all parties defendant thereto. The statutory writ tax and clerk’s fees shall be paid before the summons is issued.

    2. Caption.

      The complaint shall be captioned with the name of the court and the full style of the action, which shall include the names of all the parties. The requirements of Code 8.01-290 may be met by giving the address or other data after the name of each defendant.

    3. Form and Content of the Complaint.

      It shall be sufficient for the complaint to ask for the specific relief sought. Without more it will be understood that all the defendants mentioned in the caption are made parties defendant and required to answer the complaint; that proper process against them is requested; that answers under oath are waived, except when required by law, and that all relief authorized by law and demanded in the complaint may be granted. No formal conclusion is necessary.


    1. Response Requirement.

      A defendant shall file pleadings in response within 21 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant, or if service of the summons has been timely waived on request under Code 8.01-286.1, within 60 days after the date when the request for waiver was sent, or within 90 days after that date if the defendant was addressed outside the Commonwealth. A demurrer, plea, motion to dismiss, and motion for a bill of particulars shall each be deemed a pleading in response for the count or counts addressed therein. If a defendant files no other pleading than the answer, it shall be filed within said time. An answer shall respond to the paragraphs of the complaint. A general denial of the entire complaint or plea of the general issue shall not be permitted.

    2. Response After Demurrer, Plea or Motion.

      When the court has entered its order overruling all motions, demurrers and other pleas filed by a defendant, such defendant shall, unless the defendant has already done so, file an answer within 21 days after the entry of such order, or within such shorter or longer time as the court may prescribe.


    1. Scope.

      A defendant may, at that defendant’s option, plead as a counterclaim any cause of action that the defendant has against the plaintiff or all plaintiffs jointly, whether or not it grows out of any transaction mentioned in the complaint, whether or not it is for liquidated damages, whether it is in tort or contract, and whether or not the amount demanded in the counterclaim is greater than the amount demanded in the complaint.

    2. Time for initiation.

      A counterclaim shall, subject to the provisions of Rule 1:9, be filed within 21 days after service of the summons and complaint upon the defendant asserting the counterclaim, or if service of the summons has been timely waived on request under Code 8.01-286.1, within 60 days after the date when the request for waiver was sent, or within 90 days after that date if the defendant was addressed outside the Commonwealth.

    3. Response to counterclaim.

      The plaintiff shall file pleadings in response to such counterclaim within 21 days after it is served.

    4. Separate trials.

      The court in its discretion may order a separate trial of any cause of action asserted in a counterclaim.


    1. Discovery Methods.

      Parties may obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things or permission to enter upon land or other property, for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission.

    2. Scope of Discovery.

      Unless otherwise limited by order of the court in accordance with these Rules, the scope of discovery is as follows:

      1. In General.

        Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Subject to the provisions of Rule 4:8 (g), the frequency or extent of use of the discovery methods set forth in subdivision (a) shall be limited by the court if it determines that:

        1. the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
        2. the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or
        3. the discovery is unduly burdensome or expensive, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, limitations on the parties’ resources, and the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation.

        The court may act upon its own initiative after reasonable notice to counsel of record or pursuant to a motion under subdivision (c).


    1. Commissioners in chancery may be appointed in cases in circuit court, including uncontested divorce cases, only when (1) there is agreement by the parties with concurrence of the court or (2) upon motion of a party or the court on its own motion with a finding of good cause shown in each individual case.
    2. Upon entry of a decree by the court referring any matter to a commissioner in chancery, the clerk shall mail or deliver to the commissioner a copy of the decree of reference.

      Unless the decree prescribes otherwise, the commissioner shall promptly set a time and place for the first meeting of the parties or their attorneys, and shall notify the parties or their attorneys of the time and place so set. It shall be the duty of the commissioner to proceed with all reasonable diligence to execute the decree of reference.

    3. A commissioner may require the production of evidence upon all matters embraced in the decree of reference including the production of all books, papers, vouchers, documents and writings applicable thereto.

      The commissioner shall have the authority to call witnesses or the parties to the action to testify and may examine them upon oath. The commissioner may rule upon the admissibility of evidence unless otherwise directed by the decree of reference; but when a party so requests, the commissioner shall cause a record to be made of all proffered evidence which is excluded by the commissioner as inadmissible.

    4. The commissioner shall prepare a report stating his findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the matters submitted by the decree of reference.

      The commissioner shall file the report, together with all exhibits admitted in evidence and a transcript of the proceedings and of the testimony, with the clerk of the court. The commissioner shall mail or deliver to counsel of record and to parties not represented by counsel, using the last address shown in the record, written notice of the filing of the report. Provided, however, that in divorce cases a copy of the report shall accompany the notice. Provided, further, that no such notice or copy shall be given parties who have not appeared in the proceeding.