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How are Divorce Records Generated in Virginia?

Virginia Divorce Records are documents that prove and give details of divorces that were granted between erstwhile married couples. There are 8.1 divorces out of every 1,000 women above 15 years of age.

Marriage can either be dissolved through divorce or annulment. An annulment means making void a marriage that was contracted against laid out statutes. A marriage can be annulled if any of the parties lacked the capacity to give consent to the marriage or if the marriage is prohibited in accordance with § 20–38.1 of the Code of Virginia.

If the marriage was legally contracted, then it can be dissolved through divorce. There were nine grounds of divorce in Virginia. Five were repealed, bringing the tally to four according to the Code of Virginia § 20–91. These grounds are:

  • Adultery
  • Conviction or imprisonment of a spouse for more than one year over a felony
  • Cruelty or inhuman treatment
  • Prolonged separation between the couple

There are three types of divorces obtainable in the State of Virginia, which are:

  • Uncontested
  • Contested
  • No-fault

An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties of the divorce agreed to the terms of settlement without the need for a trial. However, the parties will have to sign the Divorce Agreement which will be issued by a court with commensurate jurisdiction. A typical uncontested divorce would take about two to three months to be finalized

On the other hand, a contested divorce is one in which the parties disagree over one or more issues regarding the settlement of the divorce. The divorce would have to be finalized in court following a court proceeding. In this case, the application for divorce must be one or more of the grounds of divorce listed earlier. This divorce can take as much as eighteen months to be finalized.

For a no-fault divorce, the parties do not have to cite any of the listed grounds for divorce. However, the couple must have lived apart from each other for at least one year. If, however, there are no minor children in the marriage, and the couple had earlier signed a separation agreement, either of them may file for a divorce after staying apart for only six months. This divorce also must be granted by a competent court.

In keeping to § 32.1–268, the Clerk of Circuit Court where the divorce was finalized is to certify and file the final decree of divorce and annulment of marriage with the State Registrar.

Are Divorce Records Public in Virginia?

Pursuant to the Virginia Code § 32.1–271, all divorce records are not public records. This means the records can not be accessed by the general public. These records can only be obtained by the parties named in the records, their immediate family members, or attorneys. Immediate family members refer to parents, wife, husband, child, sister, brother, and grandparents of the registrants.

Extended family members of the registrant such as uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws are not authorized to request for the divorce records. Eligible family members must present a valid ID to prove their relationship with the registrants.

The Virginia Code § 2.2–3700 through 2.2–3714 makes it unlawful for anyone to issue a divorce record and any other vital record to an unauthorized person. However, divorce records will automatically become public records 25 years after the divorce was granted.

What are the types of Divorce Records available in Virginia?

The three types of divorce records in Virginia are divorce certificate, final decree of divorce, and divorce case files.

A divorce certificate is a document that proves that a divorce was granted to two parties by a competent court in Virginia. It contains the names of the two parties involved in the divorce, the date of the divorce, and where it was finalized. This record can be obtained from the Vital Records Division of the Virginia Department of Health.

Final decrees of divorce are documents that capture the final divorce judgment given by a court and the terms of settlement of a divorce. It also bears the names of the parties of the divorce, when, and where it was finalized.

But unlike the divorce certificate, the final decree of divorce contains other details such as child support, spousal support, change of name information, property division, visitations, etc. The Clerk of Circuit Court keeps and issues this record as well as divorce case files.

The divorce case files, on the other hand, are all the documents that were filed during the divorce proceeding leading to the eventual final judgment. It contains papers, summons, motions, etc.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in Virginia?

In Virginia, divorce records can be obtained via mail and in-person. The exact mode of retrieval of a divorce record depends on the particular record under consideration. The State Office of Vital Records issues divorce certificates to authorized members of the public. It has records of divorces that occurred from 1918 to date.

There are two ways to submit a request for a certified copy of a divorce certificate, which walk-in, and mail-in requests. However, both of them start with an online application form. To order for a certified copy of a divorce certificate, fill in the divorce certificate online application form.

Some of the fields include the name of the registrant, date of the divorce, place of divorce, the relationship of the requester to the registrant, the reason for the request, contact address, and phone number of the requester. When all necessary fields have been completed, print the form and sign on it.

The Office of Vital Records charges a fee of $12 for each certified copy of a divorce certificate. The fee must be a signed check or money order payable to the State Health Department. In addition to the signed application, the requester must provide a valid government-issued ID and the applicable fee.

For mail-in requests, send the signed form, the applicable fee, and a copy of a valid government-issued ID to:

Office of Vital Records
P. O. Box 1000
Richmond, Virginia 23218–1000
Phone: 804–662–6200

Typically, a mail-in request takes two to four weeks to be processed. To obtain a divorce certificate in person, visit the Office of Vital Records or any of these Thomas Jefferson Health District Offices:

Charlottesville/Albemarle Health Department (Entrance #3)
1138 Rose Hill Drive
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Phone: (434) 972–6200

Fluvanna County Health Department
Route 15, County Office Building
Palmyra, VA 22963
Phone: (434) 591–1965

Greene County Health Department
50 Stanard Street
Stanardsville, VA 22973
Phone: (434) 985–2262

Louisa County Environmental Health Department
1 Woolfolk Avenue
Louisa, VA 23093
Phone: (540) 967–3707

Nelson County Health Department
4038 Thomas Nelson Highway
Arrington, VA 22922
(434) 263–4297

The means of obtaining a final decree of divorce is, however, quite different. A final decree of divorce is maintained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court where the divorce was finalized. To obtain this record, the requester should contact the Clerk of Circuit Court.

For some counties such as Fairfax County, requesters would send a letter, which contains the case number, year of divorce, and full names of the parties.

The letter would be sent with a self-stamped envelope and the appropriate fee to the Clerk of Circuit Court. But this procedure is not the same for other counties. Some counties have an application form that requesters would complete and submit by mail or in person.

A final decree of divorce is very confidential and can only be issued to the parties named on the record. According to Virginia Code § 17.1–275, the first certified copy ordered is free.

The cost of additional copies varies according to the county where the divorce was granted. Some Clerks of Circuit Courts impose additional fees for obtaining such records, which makes the fees differ across counties.

While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored therefore record availability may vary further.

Also note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Virginia?

Divorce records are confidential records and can only be obtained by the parties named on the records, their immediate family members, and legal representatives. Immediate family members refer to only parents, grandparents, siblings, and spouses of parties named on the record.

After the first 25 years of the divorce has elapsed, anyone can request for the divorce record as long as it was not sealed.

Are Virginia Divorce Records available online?

The Virginia Vital Records Office has an online application system that allows requesters to complete a divorce certificate application form. However, this application form cannot be submitted online. It has to be printed, signed, and submitted in person or by mail.

For obtaining a final decree of divorce and case files, some counties such as Fairfax county have an online portal for requesting the divorce records under the management of the county’s Clerk of Circuit Court.

How Do I seal My Divorce Records in Virginia?

Divorce records can be sealed by filing an appropriate motion or suit under Virginia Code § 20–124. This motion can be filed during the divorce proceeding or after it has been finalized. What it means is that the record will not be open to public access even after the first 25 years of the case has elapsed.

However, a sealed divorce record is still accessible to the parties named on the record, their legal representatives, and any other person that the judge allows based on his/her discretion. Sealing of the When filing this motion or suit, it is expected that the parties’ attorneys give the court a good reason to oblige the request. Common reasons for a court to seal a divorce record

  • Proof that harm was done to the individual seeking seal
  • Guarantee of children’s protection in any case of harm
  • Privileged information and important documents containing trading secrets or other sensitive information
  • Any untrue information
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