When a spouse knows the relationship is over, they often wonder if they have sufficient grounds for divorce in Virginia when they file for divorce. That’s an important question because, in Virginia, a couple has two options for getting a divorce – fault or no fault.
Especially when there is no agreement between spouses, getting a divorce can be an emotional and hectic experience. Separating assets, creating a child care plan, calculating child support, and negotiating spousal support are all part of the complex divorce process.
Making the decision that a divorce is best for your family is not an easy one to reach, especially when children are involved. Educating yourself on divorce laws to some degree beforehand can help alleviate the stress in the process ahead. This is an easy guide to support your understanding of Virginia law regarding grounds for divorce.
What to Know About Divorce in Virginia
Virginia is a hybrid divorce state. This means that you can file for a no-fault or a fault divorce. Choosing a no-fault divorce might be faster, but it’s not always your best option depending on the specific circumstances of your situation.
Grounds for No-Fault Divorce
The no-fault option can eliminate some of the emotion and stress involved in divorce proceedings. Generally, in a no-fault divorce, the spouses agree the marriage is over and have taken certain steps to begin their lives living separate and apart.
To qualify for a no-fault or uncontested divorce in Virginia, you and your spouse must:
- Have already lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption from each other for more than least six months.
- Not have minor children from the marriage. This includes children that were born from that marriage, or born of either party and adopted by the other, or adopted by both parties. You and your spouse cannot be a parent of any children connected to the marriage.
- Have a separation agreement in place.
It may be best to speak with an attorney to make sure you have a full understanding of whether your divorce might qualify as no-fault.
What Is a Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a legal document negotiated before your divorce becomes final, and is also referred to as a “property settlement agreement” or a “marital settlement agreement.” When both spouses sign the document, the handling of marital property as well as certain divorce-related issues will be indicated. Specifically, it addresses significant factors that need finalization before a divorce can be granted.
In the agreement, you will need to address many issues, including:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Spousal support
- Distribution of marital assets
- Distribution of marital debts
- Transfer of ownership or sale of the marital home
- Who gets the marital vehicle or vehicles
If the agreement is made for a no-fault ground, there cannot be any minor children involved in the marriage. Child support and child custody will most likely be omitted from the separation document in this case.
Once the agreement is finalized, your lawyer will present the document to a judge along with your divorce filing. The judge will review and sign off on it when making your divorce final.
Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce
For a fault-based divorce in Virginia, you need to provide proof for your case. Choosing fault over no-fault can have advantages, depending on your situation. This type can have an impact on your ability to get more spousal support and marital assets. Going this route when filing may take more time. These grounds come with strict deadlines as well as time periods that allow your spouse to reply to your filing and motions.
Virginia law recognizes the following four most common fault grounds:
1. Adultery, Sodomy, or Buggery Committed
When one spouse commits adultery, the extramarital affair can spell an end for the marriage. If your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person outside the marriage, you have grounds for a fault divorce. Virginia law requires you to provide the court with “clear and convincing” evidence when proving adultery, sodomy, or buggery.
2. Cruelty and Reasonable Apprehension of Bodily Harm
The cruelty ground is when a spouse becomes physically violent or inflicts emotional pain. The court may ask for proof that cohabitation with the other party is no longer safe.
3. Willful Desertion or Abandonment
If your spouse has abandoned the marriage for at least one year, you can file for divorce. In this instance, you must show the court that your spouse has effectively deserted or abandoned the marriage and that he or she has been absent from it for one year or longer.
4. Conviction of a Felony
Virginia state law allows you to file a fault-based divorce when a spouse is convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than one year in prison.
Fault divorce requires more time because you must provide evidence of the fault the other party committed. Do not make anything up, though, because the court will look very poorly upon a spouse who tries to fabricate reasons. If you do not have a reason to get a divorce, do not panic because you can simply choose to pursue the no-fault option.
Seeking divorce attorneys in Virginia may be a beneficial path to lessen the workload for you. They can help you determine whether or not you’re qualified for no-fault divorce or if you have sufficient grounds for a fault divorce. Speaking with a skilled lawyer can help you better understand the options available to you.
Speak with a Trusted Lawyer Today
Your ability to successfully navigate the complex separation process can depend on the lawyer you choose to guide you through your Virginia divorce. It is essential to work with a compassionate and experienced divorce lawyer who can make this emotional and stressful legal process easier to handle.
If you find it difficult to file for divorce in Virginia, or if you have further questions about grounds for divorce,contact us today.