When can I get married?
You must be 18 years old to get married unless you have been emancipated
(declared an adult) by a court.
What does it mean in legal terms to get married?
Marriage is a contract and a married couple has duties and responsibilities
toward one another until one of them dies or the relationship is legally
terminated. In a marriage, it is the duty of each spouse to provide support to
the other spouse, and this duty often continues for one spouse even if the
marriage results in separation or divorce. Getting married changes your life
in many ways, and it is difficult to set out a list. However, some legal
ramifications of getting married include potentially changing your last name,
making additions or changes to your insurance, and changing your tax status.
Being married may also affect how you write a will, or update an existing
will. Your marital status also affects how you own property with your spouse.
How do I get a marriage license, and do I have to get a blood test?
You and your fiancé must go to the clerk of the circuit court in the city or
county where you live, sign an application, and be issued a marriage license
within 60 days before your wedding date. You do not have to get a blood test
What does it mean in legal terms to get divorced?
A divorce is a method of dissolving the legal contract that binds a couple
together in marriage. One spouse must have “grounds” or legal reasons to allow
them to file for and for a court to grant a divorce. To get a divorce in
Virginia, one of the following must be shown:
- Sexual intercourse or sodomy with someone outside the marriage;
- Conviction of a felony by the spouse;
- Willful desertion or abandonment;
Cruelty or the infliction of reasonable apprehension of bodily harm; or
The couple has lived separate and apart for one year with the intent to get
a divorce, or six months if there are no minor children and the couple has a
written settlement agreement.
Do I have to go to court to resolve the issues surrounding my divorce?
No. There are several methods for resolving the issues surrounding the ending
of your marriage including disputes you may have regarding property, your
children, and/or child or spousal support. It is a Virginia lawyer’s ethical
duty to counsel you regarding mediation, negotiation, and other forms of
dispute resolution. These forms of alternative dispute resolution should be
weighed against the pros and cons of courtroom litigation.
Does the mother always get custody of the children?
No. In Virginia, both parents stand on equal footing in a custody dispute, and
there is no preference for a mother over a father. The determining issue in
all custody and/or visitation cases is the best interests of the child. To
reach that determination, a judge must consider a number of statutory factors.
If I have a child when I am not married, what are my legal obligations to that
Both parents have legal obligations, regardless of whether you are married to
the child’s other parent. If you do not voluntarily take financial
responsibility for your child, the court may order you to pay support in a
fixed amount. This responsibility generally continues until your child reaches
age 18, or if still a full-time high school student until age 19 or
graduation, whichever occurs first. If you refuse to pay support, your wages
could be garnished and you could even face imprisonment. If a man denies that
he is a child’s father, the court can order a blood test to determine
What are my legal rights, and where can I turn for help if I find myself in an
Both married and unmarried people who find themselves in abusive relationships
can seek help from the court system in Virginia. Individuals in fear of death,
sexual assault, or bodily injury can go to court and ask for a protective
order to shield them from acts of abuse by third parties, even if the threat
comes from a family member. “Family abuse” is any act involving violence,
force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable
apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury and that is committed
by a person against such person ‘s family or household member. Such act
includes, but is not limited to, any forceful detention, stalking, or criminal
sexual assault as defined by law or any criminal offense that results in
bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual
assault, or bodily injury. The court may try to alleviate the abusive
situation by prohibiting further contact or abuse between you and your abuser,
granting you sole possession of the marital residence or forcing your abuser
to provide you suitable housing, or even requiring you both to attend
counseling. There are stiff legal and financial penalties if your abuser
violates a court order. You also may bring criminal charges against your
abuser by filing a complaint for assault and battery.
Domestic or relationship abuse is a very serious issue, and the first step is
to seek help from an outside resource, which may be the police or an advocacy
group in your area that addresses domestic violence. Check your local
telephone listings or call the local police department for the number of a
resource group that can provide you with further information on your options.
The Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline
(for family violence and sexual assault)
Child Protective Services Hotline for Virginia
(for child abuse and neglect)
Adult Protective Service
(for elder and disabled adult abuse and neglect)
(888) 83-ADULT or (888) 832-3858
National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-SAFE or (800) 799-7233 (voice)
(800) 787-3224 (TTY)