What are the Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?

In an era when such a large percentage of marriages end in divorce, we don’t necessarily expect to need a reason to dissolve a partnership. However, Virginia law does require couples to have appropriate grounds in order to obtain a divorce.

If you don’t have the right grounds, a court cannot grant a divorce. So it is essential to understand the grounds for divorce in Virginia if you’re planning to end your marriage. It is also important to realize that grounds for divorce must be corroborated, usually by a third-party witness.

Requirements for No-Fault Divorce in Virginia

The grounds for divorce differ depending on whether you are approaching divorce on a “fault” or “no fault” basis. Where neither party is alleging any wrongdoing on the part of the other, the situation is often referred to as a no-fault divorce although the state statutes do not use that term.

Under the statute describing the “Grounds for divorce from the bond of matrimony,” Virginia Code §20-91, a couple may seek a divorce on the grounds that they have lived separate and apart for one year. That effectively establishes a one-year waiting period for a no-fault divorce. However, the period of living separate and apart may be as short as six months if the parties execute a separation agreement and they do not have any minor children together.

To satisfy the requirement of living “separate and apart,” certain elements must be established:

  • At least one partner must intend for the separation to be permanent at the time of separation and continuously afterward
  • The parties must not “cohabitate” during the separation period (i.e. no intimate relations)
  • The separation period must be continuous without interruption

In some cases, parties may live separate and apart while in the same house. But if they sleep together or have any type of temporary reconciliation, the clock starts over on the waiting period to provide grounds for divorce. Couples who wish to establish that they are separated while still living in the same house will usually have separate bedrooms and only limited contact with each other while in the rooms they share such as the kitchen. Additionally, a couple may be required to show that they have established separate finances and have scheduled separate custodial time with their children.

Virginia Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce

The divorce statute lists several grounds for divorce based on the wrongful conduct of one of the partners. These grounds can be challenging to establish because the party accused of wrongdoing may assert various defenses.

Fault-based grounds for divorce include:

  • Adultery
  • Cruelty
  • Causing reasonable apprehension of bodily injury
  • Deliberate desertion
  • Conviction of a felony

Divorce may also be granted on grounds of constructive desertion, which occurs when one spouse makes living conditions intolerable or otherwise acts as if the relationship has ended. If one spouse refuses to fulfill marital responsibilities or refuses to have sex without just cause, that could be shown to be a pattern of conduct constituting constructive desertion.

Assistance with Divorce in Virginia

The experienced divorce attorneys at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC know that nothing in the divorce process is easy. However, we aim to make it easier while helping you obtain your objectives. To learn how we could assist with or answer questions about your divorce, schedule a confidential consultation today.

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