The only trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia is the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court has jurisdiction over the following:
- any claim for money damages (e.g. contract or personal injury dispute) over $4,500 but not exceeding $25,000, concurrent jurisdiction with General District Court; exceeding $25,000, exclusive original jurisdiction
- validity of a county ordinance or state law
- appeal of zoning decisions
- habeas corpus petitions
- all felonies, offenses that may be punished by commitment to the state penitentiary
- appeals of misdemeanors
- transfer or certification of felonies committed by juveniles
Equity Suits (claims seeking a judgment for something other than money):
- divorce proceedings
- wills, trusts and estate matters
- property disputes
- adoption proceedings
- appeals from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (heard de novo)
The Circuit Court hears any case for which jurisdiction is not specified in the Code of Virginia. At the beginning of each term of the Circuit Court, a Grand Jury is convened. The Grand Jury considers bills of indictment and determines whether there is sufficient probable cause to believe that a person accused of a serious crime did commit such crime and should stand trial. The Grand Jury does not hear both sides of the case and does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.
A Special Grand Jury is convened to investigate any condition which tends to promote criminal activity in the community or which indicates malfeasance by governmental agencies or officials. The Grand Jury has subpoena powers and may summons persons, documents, or records needed in its investigation.
Source: Virginia Courts In Brief, http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/cib.pdf
NOTE: As of July 1, 2012, all divorce decrees must contain the following notice in conspicuous, bold print:
Beneficiary designations for any death benefit, as defined in subsection B of § 20-111.1 of the Code of Virginia, made payable to a former spouse may or may not be automatically revoked by operation of law upon entry of a final decree of annulment or divorce. If a party intends to revoke any beneficiary designation made payable to a former spouse following the annulment or divorce, the party is responsible for following any and all instructions to change such beneficiary designation given by the provider of the death benefit. Otherwise, existing beneficiary designations may remain in full force and effect after the entry of a final decree of annulment or divorce.
Source: Virginia Code § 20-111.1(E).