Once you have been separated for the required period, you can file a divorce action. After you file for a divorce in Virginia, you have to attempt to notify your spouse that you have filed. The easiest way to do this is to have your spouse sign a document commonly referred to as a waiver.
If your spouse is not willing to sign a waiver, you can have your spouse served with a copy of the papers that were filed with the Court. This can be done by a sheriff or a private process server. After they have served your spouse with the paperwork, they will file a report with the Court as to the details of the service. This shows the Court that your spouse was notified about the divorce action. If you have the divorce papers served on your spouse, you have to wait 3 weeks to see if your spouse is going to file an answer to the divorce action. After that 3 week waiting period, you can schedule a hearing to finalize the divorce. You will also have to notify your spouse of the hearing date and time. This is normally also served on the spouse. It is important to understand that your spouse does not have to respond to the divorce action for you to be able to get a divorce. You do not need the spouse's permission to get a divorce in Virginia.
If you don't know where your spouse is, you are not out of luck. You can still get a divorce in Virginia, however, it will take a little longer. If the last place that you knew your spouse was living is in Virginia, you need to attempt to have them served at that address. If the last place that you knew your spouse was living was outside of Virginia, you need to mail a copy of the paperwork that was filed with the court to that address. Then you will have to run an ad in a local newspaper for 4 consecutive weeks announcing that you have filed for a divorce. There is a form that must be filed with the court for this ad to be run. Once the ad has run for 4 consecutive weeks, the newspaper will file a statement with the court that they have run the ad and the dates. You then have to wait an additional 3 weeks to give your spouse an opportunity to respond before you can schedule a hearing to finalize the divorce.
As you can see, you don't have to know where your spouse is to be able to get a divorce in Virginia but the process is complicated. This is not something you should try to do without the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-320-2010 to schedule free phone consultation and I will discuss your options with you. The longer you wait the more difficult it will become so don't delay.