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Grounds for divorce in Virginia

Virginia law requires that there be a valid reason as prescribed by law before a divorce will be granted. While, like many states, Virginia recognizes fault-based grounds and no-fault grounds, it further divides divorce into two categories: divorce from bed and board and divorce from the bond of matrimony.

Divorce from bed and board makes two individuals legally separated and prohibits either of them from remarrying. The first ground for bed and board divorce is willful desertion. This means that the spouse breaks off cohabitation and an intent to abandon the other spouse. The separation must be one-sided and not mutual. In the event of desertion, a divorce suit from bed and board might be filed immediately with the court. The other ground for divorce from bed and board is cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. If one spouse acts in a way that causes physical harm to the other spouse and makes that spouse's living situation unsafe, the harmed spouse can file for suit after the parties separate.

Divorce from the bond of matrimony is an absolute divorce. This can be established through the no-fault ground of separation if the spouses have been separated for more than one year without any period of cohabitation in between. If the couple has no minor children and have agreed to a property settlement or separation agreement, they only need to be separated for six months. Adultery is a fact-based ground of divorce from the bond of matrimony and requires evidence before it will be granted. Conviction of a felony that results in confinement of more than one year is another ground.

If an individual is not sure if there are legitimate grounds for him or her to divorce, the person may consult a family law attorney. That attorney may be able to explain how the rules for divorce apply to the client's situation and might discuss defenses that the other spouse may raise.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Divorce in Virginia", August 15, 2014

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Divorce in Virginia", August 15, 2014

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