What are the Different Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?
Divorce is not a concept that most married couples want to consider. But the unfortunate reality is that a substantial number of marriages will end in divorce. That is why Virginia provides several avenues for married spouses who want to pursue a divorce.
Under Virginia law, there are only certain situations under which a formerly married couple may file for divorce. Referred to legally as “grounds,” the spouses must have a valid reason for getting divorced. Absent valid grounds, the Virginia courts cannot award a divorce, even if both spouses want to end their marriage.
Depending on the grounds and related circumstances, there are two types of divorce available to married couples in Virginia: Divorce from Bed and Board and Divorce from Bond of Matrimony.
Divorce from Bed and Board
Code of Virginia Section 20-95 outlines the legal requirements for a divorce from bed and board. Sometimes referred to legally as a mensa et thoro, a divorce from bed and board is essentially a partial divorce or legal separation. As this type of divorce is not necessarily permanent, neither spouse is allowed to remarry during this process.
Under Section 20-95, there are typically two legal grounds for a divorce from bed and board:
- Cruelty or Apprehension of Harm — It is possible for a spouse to file for a partial divorce based on cruel treatment or reasonable apprehension of bodily harm; and
- Willful Desertion or Abandonment — It is possible for a spouse to file for a partial divorce if the other spouse deserts or abandons the marriage.
If a spouse deserts or abandons their marriage for more than one year, then it is possible to request a more permanent remedy called a divorce from bond of matrimony.
Divorce from Bond of Matrimony
Code of Virginia Section 20-91 establishes the legal requirements for a divorce from bond of matrimony. Sometimes referred to legally as a vinculo matrimonii, a divorce from bond of matrimony is an absolute divorce that is permanent. After completion of a divorce from bond of matrimony, either spouse is allowed to remarry.
Under Section 20-91, there are typically three legal grounds for a divorce from bond of matrimony:
- Legal Separation — After at least one year of legal separation, by choice or desertion, either spouse may file for a permanent divorce;
- Felony Conviction — If a spouse is convicted of a felony and sentenced to at least one year in jail, then the other spouse may file for a permanent divorce; and
- Adultery, Sodomy, or Buggery — If a spouse engages in extramarital sexual acts, then the other spouse may file for a permanent divorce.
Contact Us Today for Professional Help
If you have legal questions about divorce in Virginia, it is beneficial to seek counsel from a knowledgeable family law attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have proven experience with various family law matters in Virginia, including divorce. If you need legal help in this arena, contact us today for an initial consultation.