This section provides basic information about divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.
- What are the grounds for divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
- What are the residency requirements to get a divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
- What temporary orders can a judge issue while I am in the process of getting a divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
- Can I get alimony?
- What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
What are the grounds for divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
To get a divorce (or become legally separated) in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you must show that there has been a breakdown of the marriage and the marriage can no longer be preserved.1
1 16 V.I.C. § 104
What are the residency requirements to get a divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
The spouse filing for divorce (or legal separation) must reside in the U.S. Virgin Islands for at least six continuous weeks prior to beginning the legal action. In addition, this spouse must reside in the U.S. Virgin Islands at the time s/he files for divorce. It does not matter where the parties were married.1
1 16 V.I.C. § 106(a)
What temporary orders can a judge issue while I am in the process of getting a divorce in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
After you begin court proceedings but before the divorce is finalized, a judge can issue the following orders:
- you or your spouse must pay child support while the divorce is pending;
- if you are financially needy, your spouse must pay you the money that you need either to pursue or defend the divorce action;
- if your spouse is financially needy, you must pay the money that s/he needs either to pursue or defend the divorce action; and
- you and/or your spouse must not dispose of (get rid of) any property while the divorce is pending.1
1 16 V.I.C. § 108
Can I get alimony?
Alimony (also called spousal support or maintenance) is financial support paid by one spouse to the other. A judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands may order alimony in one large payment (lump sum); in multiple smaller payments (installments), or possibly in other forms.1 If you ask for alimony, a judge will make a decision about whether to grant you alimony after considering:
- your and your spouse’s circumstances, such as your living situations;
- your needs;
- your independence and your ability to earn your own money;
- the ability of the person being asked to pay alimony to make payments;
- your and your spouse’s physical conditions;
- the kind of life you and your spouse had together; and
- any other factors the judge finds relevant.2
The judge will determine the amount of alimony that you will receive after considering your and your spouse’s:
- personal income;
- potential income;
- bank balances;
- living expenses;
- and overall circumstances.4
1 16 V.I.C. § 109(a)(3); § 341(g); see also Towers v. Towers, No. CIV. 240/1970, 1979 WL 447860
2Morris v. Morris, No. 153-1982, 1984 WL 998145
3 16 V.I.C. § 345; Fuentes v. Fuentes, No. D89/1995, 1997 WL 34901027
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)
Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?