The Commonwealth of Virginia considers physical marital separation as a kind of quasi-divorce. Other states simply call a formal split a legal separation. Virginia’s term is a divorce from bed and board – you remain married, apart and unable to remarry.
The final-and-done, second type of divorce is known as a divorce from the bond of matrimony. Grounds or reasons are required whether you choose to legally separate or complete the final divorce process. Let’s start with divorce from bed and board grounds.
Grounds for a divorce from bed and board are willful desertion and cruelty. The grounds must contain substance. For instance, desertion is not possible when a couple agrees to live apart. An intention to desert or abandon must be present.
Cruelty is not a separation after a loud argument. This ground cannot be used unless a spouse’s mental or physical health is at risk. One spouse’s cruelty must be accompanied by an element of fear in the other spouse for this to be a valid ground.
A divorce from the bond of matrimony does not have to include finger pointing. Virginia no-fault divorces are available, when spouses have lived apart for at least one year. The waiting period falls to six months for spouses without children and formalized property division or separation agreements.
Fault divorces from the bond of matrimony are also an option. Divorce is granted with evidence of sexual acts outside the marriage. The spouse of a convicted felon can receive a divorce, provided a spouse is incarcerated with a sentence of over one year.
Separated spouses with a divorce from bed and board can have the divorce incorporated into a divorce from the bond of matrimony decree. The stipulation is the spouses must be separated for a minimum of one year.
Advice from a divorce attorney can provide more details about these legal processes than is written here.
Source: Virginia State Bar, “Divorce in Virginia” Aug. 05, 2014