When two people get married, they seldom think their wedded bliss will end in divorce. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong in a marriage that you just can’t fix. If divorce has become the only answer to an unbearable union, you can’t just “break up” and go your separate ways. There are specific steps required in the dissolution of a marriage. These begin with the grounds, or reasons, why you want to end the marriage. Each state has their own set of family laws that govern divorce. Virginia grants divorces based on various grounds in both fault and no-fault divorce cases.
Grounds for Fault-Based Divorce
It’s quite common for one spouse to blame the other spouse when a marriage doesn’t work out. Although one spouse may claim it’s the other’s “fault,” it doesn’t mean the reason behind this blame is grounds for a fault-based divorce. Virginia is one of a few states that still grant divorces based on bad conduct or marital misconduct that caused a breakdown in the marriage.
The grounds for fault divorce include:
- Sexual acts outside the marriage. These can include adultery (sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his/her spouse), sodomy (sexual acts not including intercourse outside the marriage) and buggery (bestiality or sexual acts against nature). These grounds for divorce can all be difficult to prove and evidence must be conclusive, including corroborating testimony.
- Conviction of a crime. Any conviction that includes a sentence of confinement for more than one year, typically a felony, that results in actual confinement of your spouse. Being charged with a crime doesn’t count; your spouse must actually be convicted and serve time. This won’t count as suitable grounds, if you resume cohabitation after you have knowledge of the confinement.
- Cruelty and apprehension of bodily harm. This includes physical cruelty that involves violence or the fear of violence. Mental cruelty isn’t normally a ground for divorce in Virginia, however if conduct could endanger your mental health, then it might be sufficient. There is a one year waiting period for divorces based on cruelty.
- Desertion or abandonment. This can include actual desertion, when a spouse willfully or intentionally leaves the marriage without a good reason; or, construction desertion, when a spouse forces the other spouse to leave. This desertion must continue for 12 uninterrupted months with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Grounds for No-Fault Divorce
Although Virginia divorce laws don’t recognize “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for a no-fault divorce, the state does allow an uncontested no-fault divorce based on a voluntary separation. No-fault divorces are not based on any supposed bad conduct by either spouse, but a mutual agreement that the marriage has failed and there’s no chance of reconciliation.
Thus, you don’t need any official grounds for getting divorce. However, you must prove you’ve lived under a separate roof and have had no sexual relations for one year, if you have minor children, or six months, if you don’t have children and you have an agreed upon Property Settlement or Separation Agreement in place. While you may have grounds for a fault-based divorce, couples sometimes pursue a no-fault divorce for expediency and to save on the expense and embarrassment of proving fault allegations.
Grounds for Divorce from Bed and Board
Virginia divorce laws also include a procedure called a Divorce from Bed and Board. This is a limited divorce, in which you and your spouse are still legally married and aren’t free to remarry. It does, however, settle spousal support, child custody and support, and equitable distribution of property.
The grounds for divorce from bed and board include
- Fear of bodily harm
- Willful desertion or abandonment
A bed and board divorce is similar to a legal separation and common when you haven’t been separated for a year yet, but you want to initiate divorce proceedings to establish temporary support and custody. Following a one-year waiting period, most couples typically pursue a Divorce from Matrimony, which is an absolute, final and permanent divorce.
To file for a divorce in Virginia, you or your spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months prior to filing. Your divorce can take anywhere from several months to several years, drawing out substantially if there are numerous contested issues. All grounds for divorce must be corroborated by evidence, which can include independent witnesses who know about the situation intimately.
The dissolution of your marriage often involves complicated legal and financial matters, especially when children and extensive property settlements are involved. The Firm For Men, located in Virginia Beach, is dedicated to protecting men’s rights across Hampton Roads. Call us today at 757-383-9184 for a confidential consultation and let us help you determine the grounds for your divorce and guide you every step of the way through the divorce process.