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Grounds for ending a marriage

Virginia provides two options for someone who wants to divorce: divorce from bed and board and divorce from matrimony. The first option is not recognized as full legal divorce; a person might divorce from bed and board because of cruelty, possible fear of bodily harm or desertion.

The commonwealth accepts three reasons for divorce from matrimony, including 'no-fault" divorce. The person filing for divorce does not need to list wrongdoing by a party in order for the court to grant the divorce. If the party has lived apart separately for at least 12 months without cohabitation, the court may grant the divorce. The time can be reduced to six months if the couple does not have children and if they have already agreed to property division. Even so, when seeking alimony, a judge might consider a person's reasons to request a divorce.

The courts will grant at-fault divorce if a spouse has committed adultery. However, they require proof and not just mere suspicion although eyewitness testimony is not required. In the same context, sodomy and buggery also qualify for at-fault divorce. Sodomy is defined as other sexual acts outside the marriage while buggery is defined as a sexual act against nature or bestiality. The person accused of these might provide a legitimate defense that they are not guilty. The court will also accept imprisonment after a felony conviction as a legitimate reason for divorce. The person must be sentenced to a year or more of custody.

When someone wants to divorce, they might want to end the relationship but may not understand how the process. In those cases, both parties may need to speak with family lawyers about their situations. A family lawyer might help a client negotiate an agreement that protects a client's interests but offers an agreeable settlement to the other party.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Divorce in Virginia", September 29, 2014

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