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What is a "divorce from bed and board?"

There are many ways to pursue a divorce, from negotiating in alternative dispute resolution or taking matters to court. Regardless of the process individuals choose, many people believe there is still only one kind of divorce–an absolute divorce that legally ends a marriage. 

However, quite a few states, including Virginia, have a law that allows individuals to pursue a divorce "from bed and board." So, what is this type of divorce, and how does it work?

What does this kind of a divorce entail?

A divorce from bed and board is technically a form of legal separation. Spouses remain married and therefore maintain benefits like they would in a separation. And, like a legal separation, this situation can eventually lead to an absolute divorce that officially ends the marriage. 

However, there are a few significant differences, including:

  • This divorce separates one spouse from the property and the individual who pursued the bed and board divorce by a court order; and
  • Spouses can begin aspects of the divorce process during this separation, including determining child custody and property division. 

And another one of the primary elements that makes this divorce different from an average legal separation is that a divorce from bed and board must involve some level of fault.

There are only two reasons someone can pursue this kind of divorce

A divorce from bed and board might help to speed up the process of divorce, but it is not available in every situation. This is a specific type of fault divorce.

Individuals can only seek this type of divorce in two circumstances:

  1. Desertion or abandonment: One spouse must have physically left the other or left the relationship intentionally and without justification for a specific period.
  2. Cruelty: If one spouse endures ongoing abuse, assault or threats of bodily harm from their spouse during the marriage, they might be able to pursue a divorce from bed and board. In these cases, it might also be beneficial for individuals to consider obtaining protective orders as well.

This type of divorce might only apply in specific situations, but it is essential for individuals to understand all of the options they have if they wish to end their marriage. And the attorneys at Bowen Ten Cardani, PC, have the extensive experience individuals need to guide them through every step of their divorce, regardless of their circumstances. 

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