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Virginia’s 2 forms of divorce

Putting unpleasant issues in the past quickly allows individuals to get on with their lives. Legal matters frequently take more time than some Newport News spouses want. It can be helpful to learn in advance about the legal process associated with divorce.

Virginia divorce laws are fairly unique in that spouses are given two ways to divorce. Actually, a divorce from bed and board is more like a legal separation. The bed and board divorce represents a physical departure from a marriage but does not allow remarriage.

During separation, spouses may take the opportunity to reach agreement on important matters like child custody, support and property issues. Grounds are required to obtain a divorce from bed and board, which can act as a springboard to a divorce from the bond of matrimony.

For many spouses, grounds are synonymous with proven fault. In Virginia, grounds are considered acceptable reasons to divorce, which don't always include blame.

Grounds for a divorce from bed and board include willful desertion and cruelty endangering health. Spousal consent to separate does not qualify as desertion. Abandonment is cruelty, which can take other forms.

Cruelty grounds may not be limited to mental cruelty, unless the health of the abused spouse is jeopardized. Grounds of desertion and cruelty can be accepted as soon as spouses separate. After at least one year, the same grounds can be used to obtain a divorce from the bond of matrimony.

Spouses who seek a full divorce have fault and no fault options. A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be obtained through "no fault" separation without a prior divorce from bed and board. Parties must live apart without interruption for at least one year, although the time can be reduced to six months under certain circumstances.

A divorce attorney can explain those conditions and further grounds to qualify for a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Divorce in Virginia" Dec. 23, 2014

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