Virginia's grounds for divorce

If you live in Virginia and are considering filing for divorce, it is important to understand the legal grounds for divorce you must establish in order for your divorce to be granted. There are two types of divorce in Virginia: no-fault and fault divorces. Each has its own requirements that must be met in order to qualify for a divorce. 

No-Fault Divorces in Virginia

If you and your spouse agree to divorce, you may be able to file a no-fault divorce. An uncontested divorce can be much less expensive and avoids the bitter arguments that arise in fault divorces. In order to qualify for an uncontested divorce, you must establish the following:

  • You must have reached an agreement on all issues in your divorce such as how to divide the marital property, child custody, child support, and parenting time.
  • You must have lived separately for a continuous one-year time period if you have minor children together.
  • If there are no minor children and you and your spouse have entered into a separation agreement, you would only be required to separate for at least six months before filing for a no-fault divorce. A separation agreement is a legal document that states your agreement on all of the issues decided in a divorce.

Grounds for an at-Fault Divorce

One of the benefits of an at-fault divorce in Virginia is that a husband and wife may not have to separate for one year before filing for divorce. In addition, an at-fault divorce is the only option when the spouses do not agree to an uncontested divorce.

There are two types of at-fault divorces in Virginia, and each has its own grounds. The court requires that the grounds be established and not just fabricated in order to obtain a divorce. The at-fault divorce options are:

  • Divorce from bed and board. In this type of divorce, the spouses are separated but not allowed to remarry. After a year of separation, they can ask that the divorce be merged with a bonds of matrimony divorce, so the divorce is final, and each can get remarried.
  • Divorce from the bonds of matrimony. When a couple is granted a divorce from the bonds of matrimony, the divorce is final, and each can remarry.

In order to obtain a divorce from bed and board, the following must be shown:

  • Willful desertion or abandonment
  • Cruelty and reasonable fear of bodily harm

When filing for a divorce from the bonds of matrimony, the spouses must have lived separately for at least one year or six months if there are no children. The grounds for this type of divorce are:

  • Adultery, sodomy, or buggery. Adultery occurs when one spouse has a sexual relationship with someone who is not their spouse. Conclusive proof of the adultery and corroboration of it is required. Sodomy is a sexual act not involving intercourse, and buggery is a sexual relationship with an animal.
  • Willful desertion and abandonment. To establish desertion and abandonment, there must be a willful separation by one spouse with no justification for it and the intent to remain separated for at least one year. If a spouse completely stops fulfilling their martial duties, they do not have to leave the marital home in order for desertion to be established.
  • Conviction of a felony. The felony conviction must result in a prison sentence for more than one year, and the spouses cannot live together after the incarceration.
  • Cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. It is considered cruelty to engage in acts that cause bodily injuries and make it unsafe for the husband and wife to continue to live together. One act of physical violence will generally not be enough to establish cruelty unless the actions are especially dangerous.

If you are considering filing for divorce, you need the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer to help you decide what grounds for divorce you can establish and what the best options are for you. Start a live chat, or fill out my online form to schedule an appointment to learn how I can help you navigate Virginia’s complicated divorce proceedings, so you can get on with your new life.