25 Nov 2013
A Virginia court will not simply grant a divorce because two people ask for one. Divorce is a permanent and drastic measure for a married couple, one which courts do not consider lightly. Therefore, when you petition a court in Virginia for a divorce, you must give a reason. These reasons are called “grounds.” The acceptable grounds for divorce vary from state to state, so you should always consult with a family law attorney familiar with Virginia law if you plan to file for divorce in Virginia. Furthermore, you cannot simply make up grounds for divorce and expect the court to believe you, because the court will require you to provide evidence of the grounds you stated.
Virginia divorce law sets out the following possible grounds for divorce:
Voluntary separation—This is the ground for a “no-fault” divorce, meaning one spouse is not blaming the other’s actions for the failure of the marriage. When two people have voluntarily lived apart continuously for one year, they have satisfied grounds for a no-fault divorce.
Adultery—In Virginia, one spouse must actually have sexual intercourse with another person outside the marriage to be an adulterer, as other sexual acts do not qualify as adultery or grounds for a divorce.
Cruelty—In order to be adequate grounds for divorce, cruelty generally must endanger a spouse, render continuing to cohabitate unsafe, or cause bodily harm. Cruelty can also include abusive language, insults, and other verbal behaviors that endanger mental and emotional health.
Desertion—There are two types of desertion: actual and constructive. Actual desertion means one spouse packed their bags and left. Constructive desertion means that one spouse “leaves” the relationship, but not necessarily the shared home, and causes the divorce-seeking spouse to move out. This can include cruel behavior, prolonged willful refusal of sex, or other destruction of the home life.
Felony Conviction—This qualifies when one spouse is convicted of a felony, is incarcerated for at least one year, and the other spouse does not voluntarily resume cohabitation afterward.
Proving grounds is necessary for the court to grant your divorce. If you are seeking a divorce, always contact family law attorney Raymond B. Benzinger for help with your case.