Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

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If you and your spouse are not getting along in your marriage, and there is no way to resolve your issues, it may be time to think about divorce.

Going through Virginia divorce, however, can be very stressful and painful to all involved. First, you need to determine the grounds for divorce before officially filing. If you are looking to end your marriage, let the divorce attorneys at 800.479.8124 help you in your fight.

Do You Need a Reason for Divorce in VA?

Yes, Virginia divorce laws do require a reason. This means that when you prepare a petition for divorce to submit to the courts, you have to provide the legal grounds under which you are filing.

What Do Legal Grounds for Divorce Mean in Virginia?

Under Virginia law, you need to be able to cite the reason for your divorce. Even if you are trying to get an uncontested divorce, you still need to state a reason for the divorce. The legal grounds are the reason you give to the courts.

What Are the Different Types of Divorce in Virginia?

The major types of divorce in Virginia are contested divorce and uncontested divorce. There are essentially two types of divorce that can be issued by the circuit court under family law in Virginia. These include divorce from bed and board during the initial separation, and divorce from the bond of matrimony, the final dissolution of your marriage.

Divorce From Bed and Board

Divorce from bed and board, or a mensa et thoro, means you are legally separated from each other, but you are not permitted to marry someone else. You’re still legally married in the eyes of the law, even though you are, for all intents and purposes, separated. Even if you are awarded a divorce from bed and board, you still have to be separated for one year to have it merged into a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

Divorce From the Bond of Matrimony

Divorce from the bond of matrimony, or a vinculo matrimonii, means the divorce is complete and total. You can remarry and start your life over again, and the court will enter an order regarding the division of property. You will still have to deal with any issues of child support and child custody as well as spousal support and alimony that may be a part of the divorce decree.

What Is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce in Virginia?

Annulment means that your marriage never even happened in the eyes of the law. It is wiped off the books. An annulment is very uncommon and can only be granted in certain circumstances. Generally, marriages will not qualify for an annulment, and upon consulting with a qualified family law attorney, it is likely you will discover that a divorce is the best option.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?

There are many reasons you may seek divorce in Virginia. To obtain a divorce, you will need to prove that your spouse engaged in one of the behaviors below through corroboration, or ore tenus, by other parties, or physical evidence. An experienced, aggressive divorce lawyer at 800.479.8124 will work with you to put together your case for divorce. Contact us today at 800.479.8124 or fill out our contact form online to schedule a case review. As stated above, there are two types of divorce in Virginia; divorce from bed and board, or limited divorce, and divorce from the bonds of matrimony, or full divorce. The grounds for divorce below will work for either type of divorce, although some of the specifics may be different:

Willful Desertion or Abandonment

Seeking a divorce from bed and board on the grounds of willful desertion or abandonment just requires showing that one party unjustly leaves the marital home. If seeking a divorce from the bonds of matrimony, there may be a time requirement as well. It is important to note that the spouse who left the home may not always be guilty of willful desertion or abandonment. There is also constructive desertion. Constructive desertion occurs when one spouse is so abusive, or so cruel, that it forces the other spouse to leave the home to seek reprieve.


In cases of cruelty, there is provable domestic violence, a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, or emotional abuse that is a risk to the health and life of the other spouse and/or their children. Cruelty is grounds for both a divorce from bed and board and a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

Adultery, Sodomy, or Buggery

If one member of the couple commits adultery or engages in acts of sodomy or buggery outside the marriage, a fault-based divorce can be initiated. This is grounds for a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

Conviction of a Felony

If one of the spouses is convicted of a felony, a divorce proceeding can result. This is grounds for a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

How Is Marital Property Divided After Divorce in Virginia?

Virginia is an equitable distribution state for the division of property. Equitable distribution does not mean that everything is divided 50/50. Rather, it means that the courts will attempt to determine what is fair and what allows each spouse to continue the standard of living to which they have become accustomed. Under Virginia Code § 20-107.3(E), the court will take into consideration the reason for the divorce when deciding how marital property is divided.

There are two types of property: marital and separate. Marital property refers to any property obtained by the couple during the marriage. If you buy a house together, purchase a car together, or have credit cards under both of your names, these are forms of marital property. Retirement benefits to which you contribute after you marry can be marital property as well.  Separate property refers to anything you owned prior to your marriage. It also refers to any gifts or inheritances received from a third party during the marriage that were gifted only to one member of the couple. Separate property cannot be divided under equitable distribution. It remains with the original owner.

How Is Alimony and Child Support Decided in Divorce in Virginia?

Alimony, also called spousal support, is designed to help one spouse who earns less than the other to maintain their standard of living. It is almost always awarded when one spouse is unemployed or earns significantly less than the other. It can be issued as a temporary award or a permanent one. Permanent alimony is very difficult to modify and requires a substantial and material change in circumstances one or both parties. Child support and child custody issues are determined entirely in the best interests of the child. Once issued, a child support order can also only be changed due to significant evidence that the custodial parent should shift in some way, be it through shared custody or a change in sole custody. The courts will consider many factors in determining both custody and spousal support issues. Some of these are similar to those factors considered in property division.

Duration of Marriage

How long the couple has been married comes into play. This establishes a baseline for the standard of living that must be maintained, as well as the work that each spouse put into the relationship.

Standard of Living

The standard of living means the level of comfort both members of the couple and their children enjoy. A standard of living includes the financial resources, obligations, and needs each couple has in the relationship.

Age and Physical Wellbeing

The age and physical wellness of each parent comes into play in child custody. Younger, healthier parents are more likely to be able to put in the time and attention that children require to be healthy themselves.


If one member of the couple earns the lion’s share of the income, the other may be entitled to support to maintain their standard of living. Also, the parent who earns more may be better able to support the minor children, which figures into custody and child support. Under Virginia Code § 20-107.1 (B), a judge can still award the requesting spouse alimony despite being found guilty of a fault-based divorce if not awarding spousal support will create financial hardship.

Why Should I Hire an Attorney for a Virginia Divorce?

A Virginia divorce lawyer can be your greatest ally at a time when you desperately need one. A good attorney will understand the divorce process in Virginia and know what is required, especially when it comes to proving grounds for divorce. Your attorney will provide valuable experience and objective advice not driven by emotion. They can help you avoid critical and common mistakes and help you find solutions you may not have considered. They are your voice and advocate to make sure that your equitable division is indeed equitable.

Is It Time for You to Leave the Marriage?

At Melone Hatley, P.C., we place our client relationship above all other matters. We are experienced and aggressive in fighting for your rights and caring when you need a friendly ear. If you need a client-focused approach that puts your self-peace at the forefront, we are ready to stand up for your rights. Contact our office at 800.479.8124 or fill in our contact form online to schedule a case evaluation with a member of our client services team today.

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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