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Divorce Residency Essentials to Get Divorce in the US Virgin Islands

One of the spouses must have lived in the state at least 90 days before filing for dissolution of marriage. The divorce should be filed in the county in which the petitioner resides at the time of filing. There is also a 60-day waiting period after the service of process on the Respondent (or after the Respondent’s acceptance of service. 

 

Reasons for Divorce in US Virgin Islands

 There are mainly two reasons of divorce in US Virgin Islands that is fault and general.  In order to file for divorce in US Virgin Islands, the proper grounds must be established.  Both spouses are involved in establishing these grounds, and both must substantiate and agree upon these, unless the divorcing spouse is trying to prove otherwise to the court.

No-fault divorce is a type of divorce in which the dissolution of a marriage has taken place without any wrong-doing from either party.  In US Virgin Islands, that includes:

  • Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

This is the only recognized grounds for dissolution of a marriage in US Virgin Islands.  However, US Virgin Islands recognizes what are termed "covenant marriages," and those may be dissolved as a result of the following:

  • Adultery; 
  • Conviction of a felony which mandates imprisonment or death; 
  • Abandonment for over one year; 
  • Commission of domestic violence against spouse, child, or relative; 
  • Living separately and continuously and without reconciliation for over two years; 
  • Living separately for over one year after a legal separation is obtained; 
  • Habitual use of drugs or alcohol; and 
  • Both spouses agree to a dissolution. 
 

Custody of the Children in US Virgin Islands

A court in US Virgin Islands grants the custody of the children upon divorce. The child custody can be granted to either parent on the following grounds.
  •       Best interests of the child
Upon divorce, court make child custody decision for a divorce in US Virgin Islands, court may consider the following points:
  • The preference of the child; 
  • The desire and ability of each parent to allow an open, loving, and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent; 
  • The wishes of the parents; 
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; 
  • The mental and physical health of the child and the parents; 
  • The relationship between the child and the parents and any siblings; 
  • Any evidence of sig¬nificant spouse or child abuse; 
  • Any coercion or duress in obtaining a custody agreement; and 
  • Which parent(s) have provided primary care of the child. 

The court may award joint custody if it finds that to be in the best interest of the child.  When determining this, the court looks at the following conditions as well:

  • That neither parent was coerced or influenced by duress into withholding or granting his or her agreement to joint custody; 
  • That the parents can sustain an ongoing commitment to the child; and 
  • That the joint custody agreement is logistically possible. 

Grandparents and great-grandparents may be awarded visitation rights.

 

US Virgin Islands Child Support Guidelines

Either parent may be ordered to pay child support, without regard to marital miscon­duct, based on the following factors:

  • The financial resources of the child;
  • The standard of living of the child during the marriage;
  • The physical and emotional needs of the child;
  • The financial resources and obligations of both parents;
  • Any destruction, concealment, fraudulent disposition, or excessive expenditure of jointly-held property;
  • The needs of the child; and
  • The duration of par­enting time and any related expenses.

Awards of child support are to be paid through the court unless the spouses agree otherwise. In addition, there are specific US Virgin Islands Supreme Court guidelines for child support payments available from the Clerk of any Superior Court. The amount of support established by using the official guidelines will be the required amount of child support, unless the court finds such an amount would be inappropriate or unjust. Every child support order must assign one or both of the parents responsibility for providing medical insurance coverage for the child and for payment of any medical expenses not covered by insurance. Unless there is contrary evidence presented in court, the court will assume that the non-custodial parent is capable of full-time work at the Federal minimum wage (unless the parent is under 18 years of age and attending high-school).

 

Property Distribution

US Virgin Islands is a “community property” state. Separate property is retained by the owner of the property. Community or marital property (property acquired during the marriage) is divided and awarded equitably. Marital misconduct is not considered in the division. The court may consider excessive or abnormal expenditures of community property, and any destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposi­tion of community property in making the division. The court may place a lien upon a spouse’s separate property in order to secure payment of child support or spousal support. A special Notice regarding debts and creditors is provided by statute and must be included on any materials served to the respondent. In ad­dition, at the request of either spouse, the court shall order the spouses to submit a “debt distribution plan” which allocates the responsibilities for debts. 

 

Spousal Support

Maintenance may be awarded to either spouse for sup­port if the spouse seeking maintenance:

  • Lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs;
  • Is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment;
  • Is the custodian of a child whose age and condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home;
  • Lacks earning ability in the labor market to adequately support himself or herself;
  • Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse; or
  • Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age which may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to support himself or herself.

Marital miscon­duct is not a factor to be considered. The factors to be considered are:

  • The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse and the extent that the seeking spouse reduced his or her income or career opportunities to benefit the other spouse;
  • The time for the spouse to acquire education and training for suitable employment;
  • The spouse’s future earning capacity;
  • The spouse’s standard of living during the marriage;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The ability of the spouse provid­ing maintenance to meet his or her needs while providing the maintenance to the other;
  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance (including marital property awarded and the spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs independently);
  • Any destruction, concealment, fraudulent disposition, or excessive expenditures of jointly-held property;
  • The comparative financial resources of the spouses including their comparative earning capacities;
  • The age of the spouses;
  • The physical and emotional condition of the spouses;
  • The usual occupations of the spouses during the marriage;
  • The vocational skills of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • The ability of both parties to contribute to the future educational costs of any children; and
  • Any other factors the court may deem just and equitable.

Awards of maintenance are to be paid through the court unless the spouses agree otherwise. Maintenance agreements may be made non-modifiable by agreement of both spouses. 

 

Divorce Mediation

Prior to filing for dissolution of marriage, either spouse may ask the court to order mediation for the purpose of a reconciliation to save the marriage or to obtain an amicable settlement and avoid further litigation. After a dissolution of marriage has been filed, either spouse may request that the dissolution of marriage proceedings be transferred to the Conciliation Court for mediation. Official forms for requesting this transfer are available from the clerk of any Superior Court. In addition, if one spouse denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may delay the case for up to 60 days and order the spouses to attend a conciliation conference. In addition, a judge may require spouses to attend conciliation conferences. Finally, there is a required delay of 60 days after the service of papers on the respondent spouse before any hearing may be held for a dissolution of marriage. 

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