What are the Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?
By: John Whitbeck
If you are considering terminating your marriage via a divorce, it’s important to understand how Virginia law works. The state requires that grounds for divorce exist and can be proven to the court, even in situations where both parties agree to terminate the marriage.
The two main grounds for divorce are no-fault (if you meet the requirements for separation) or fault if your spouse is guilty of marital misconduct. We recommend contacting an experienced Virginia divorce attorney to understand your options and ensure you meet the requirements to file.
A no-fault divorce is called a divorce from the bond of matrimony if you can show you’ve been separated for more than a year without any periods of cohabitation. If you and your spouse entered into a separation agreement or property settlement agreement and don’t have any minor children, the period of time is reduced to six months instead of one year.
While this is a no-fault divorce, fault can still be an issue if one party is seeking spousal support, or it can be one of the determining factors when dividing marital property. A judge has the authority to award a divorce on fault grounds even if there is a “no-fault” separation and vice versa.
Adultery, Sodomy, or Buggery
Proving adultery is difficult. The evidentiary requirements are strict and have to show conclusive proof your spouse engaged in sexual relations with someone outside of the marriage. There must be some corroboration of the spouse’s testimony, but there is no need for eyewitness testimony.
Suppose your spouse is convicted of a felony, sentenced to longer than a year in jail, and is serving the time. In that event, you have grounds for a divorce, provided you don’t resume cohabitation once you have knowledge of the confinement.
Willful Desertion or Abandonment
Willful desertion or abandonment involves both ending cohabitation and an intent to desert his or her spouse. When you mutually agree to separate, that does not qualify as desertion. If one spouse opts to leave due to acts that can qualify as cruelty, it is not considered desertion.
Cruelty and Reasonable Apprehension of Bodily Harm
If you want to divorce on the grounds of cruelty, it requires acts that can cause bodily harm and make it unsafe for the spouses to live together. In most cases, mental cruelty by itself is not enough to qualify for divorce unless it endangers the physical or mental health of the spouse who is seeking the divorce. Just the use of rude words is not enough.
To learn more about divorce, visit our Divorce Law page.
Related: Divorce Law
John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation.