There are 4 fault grounds for divorce in Virginia: adultery, cruelty or willful desertion, felony conviction, and abandonment. To qualify for a no-fault divorce, a couple must be living separately from each other for a minimum of six months and have a separation agreement. For couples with a child, the minimum period is twelve months instead of six.
Let’s check the different grounds for divorce in Virginia to understand which marriage termination option is suitable for your case.
Virginia No-Fault Divorce
In Virginia, couples can file for a no-fault divorce, meaning they do not need to prove any specific wrongdoing by either spouse that resulted in marriage termination.
No-fault divorce in Virginia is possible when spouses agree that the marital relationship is irretrievably broken and there is no possibility of reconciliation. To initiate a no-fault divorce process, a couple must meet certain requirements as specified in the Virginia divorce statutes.
1. Separation for Six Months
The separation for a minimum of six months is one of the requirements for spouses to file based on no-fault grounds for divorce in Virginia. If a couple has been living apart and meets other legal conditions, like being a resident of a particular county, they can get an uncontested divorce.
During the separation period, a couple can assess their relationship, determine if they truly want to end their marriage, and prepare a marital settlement agreement and other documents necessary for the divorce process.
A couple must reside separately, demonstrating a clear intent to end their marital relationship. It is important to note that entering into a new relationship can be considered adultery, which may impede the possibility of obtaining a no-fault divorce.
2. Separation for One Year
If a couple has minor children together or does not have a separation agreement, they must live separately for one year to qualify for a no-fault divorce in Virginia. Being legally separated means living apart and maintaining financial independence.
The prolonged separation allows spouses enough time to address matters related to child custody, visitation, and support.
Fault Divorce in Virginia
While Virginia allows for no-fault divorces, there are also fault grounds for divorce. When filing for marriage termination based on a fault ground, one spouse has to provide evidence that the other party was involved in specific misconduct that contributed to the marriage’s breakdown. The list of fault grounds is specified below.
Adultery, or voluntary sexual relationship of a spouse with a person who is not their spouse, is one of the fault reasons for divorce in Virginia. To start a divorce based on this ground, one spouse must provide clear evidence of the other spouse’s extramarital affairs to support their claims. This evidence can include photographs, messages, witness testimonies, or any other relevant documentation.
If one spouse has been subjected to cruel or harmful behavior, such as physical or emotional abuse, it can be considered a valid ground for a fault-based divorce in Virginia.
3. Felony Conviction with Imprisonment for More Than One Year
If one spouse has committed a felony and is sentenced to over a year of imprisonment, the other party can ask for a divorce based on this reason.
The conviction must have taken place after the marriage was officially registered.
4. Abandonment or Willful Desertion
Abandonment occurs when one spouse leaves the marital home and has no intention of returning. Willful desertion implies breaching spousal duties and neglecting parental responsibilities. To establish abandonment, a spouse filing for divorce must show that the separation was intentional and without any reasonable cause.
What Are the Differences Between Fault and No-Fault Divorce?
In Virginia, the main difference between fault and no-fault divorce is the reason for marriage termination. In a fault divorce, one spouse must prove that the other did something wrong, leading to the marriage breakdown. You must present sufficient evidence to the court to demonstrate the other party’s fault.
In a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to prove any wrongdoings of your spouse. Instead, you just have to follow Virginia divorce process rules, such as living apart for at least six months or a year, depending on whether children are involved. Also, you should both agree to end the marriage without blaming each other.
Each option has its pros and cons, depending on your specific situation:
- Fault divorces can be the right choice if one spouse’s actions cause a marriage termination. However, mind that proving fault in court can be challenging and result in lengthy court battles and high expenses on legal representation.
- No-fault divorces are simpler and usually take less time, but only in cases when the divorce is uncontested, and spouses agree on how to divide property, who will take care of children, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is emotional abuse a ground for divorce in Virginia?
Emotional abuse can be considered a ground for divorce in Virginia. The state recognizes “cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt” as a valid fault-based ground for divorce, and emotional abuse may fall under this category.
Is infidelity a ground for divorce in Virginia?
Yes, the state recognizes infidelity as a fault-based ground for divorce. Adultery can serve as a basis for ending a marriage.
Is a sexless marriage a ground for divorce in Virginia?
A sexless marriage alone is not recognized as a specific ground for divorce in Virginia. However, if the lack of intimacy is connected to other issues like abandonment or cruelty, it may be possible to pursue a fault-based divorce on these grounds.
Is alcoholism grounds for divorce in Virginia?
Alcoholism, on its own, cannot be specified in the petition as a reason for divorce. However, if it leads to cruelty, physical or emotional abuse, desertion, or other forms of marital misconduct, it can be used as evidence in a fault divorce case.
Paul Bennett is an author and a recurring columnist for a range of legal advisory blogs. Leveraging his past experience as a family law attorney, in his articles, Paul brings a unique understanding of the legal intricacies of divorce. His goal is to help those facing the breakdown of their marriage get through the complexities of ending it with a clear plan and awareness.