Divorce Options in VA

by Elizabeth Rayne
When a couple cannot agree, the Virginia court will decide the terms of the divorce.

When a couple cannot agree, the Virginia court will decide the terms of the divorce.

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Depending on the grounds for divorce, a Virginia couple may seek a divorce from the bond of matrimony, a divorce from bed and board or an annulment. The couple may agree on the grounds for divorce and the terms of the divorce decree. When a couple cannot agree, the Virginia courts will consider the allegations of fault, if any, in dissolving the marriage and rule on property distribution, child support, custody and spousal support.

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Divorce and Separation Overview

In Virginia, a married couple may request either a divorce from the bond of matrimony or a divorce from bed and board. Virginia law refers to a final divorce as a divorce from the bond of matrimony. With few exceptions, couples must live separately for six months to a year, depending on the grounds for divorce, before requesting a divorce from the bond of matrimony. However, a couple may also file for a divorce from bed and board, meaning that the couple is still legally married, but they no longer live together. During the separation, the couple may enter into an agreement for spousal support, child support and custody, and property distribution. Often, a couple will file for a divorce from bed and board during the waiting period for a final divorce. A court may merge the legal separation agreement into a final divorce decree after the waiting period has passed.

Grounds for Divorce

Virginia allows couples to divorce based on both fault and no-fault grounds, and the waiting period will vary depending on the grounds asserted. A couple may divorce without a waiting period if either spouse proves that adultery, buggery or sodomy took place, or one spouse is convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than one year in prison. The waiting period is one year if the divorce is on the grounds of cruelty or desertion. You may also file for no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have lived apart for at least one year. However, if a couple does not have children and signs a separation agreement, the waiting period is only six months. Further, a couple may seek a legal separation, or divorce from bed and board, on the grounds of cruelty, apprehension of bodily harm or desertion.

Annulment

As an alternative to divorce, in limited circumstances, a couple may request an annulment, meaning the marriage was never valid, with the court declaring the marriage void. You may seek an annulment if either spouse was under 18 at the time of the marriage or if one party was physically or mentally incompetent. Further, an annulment may be granted if the couple is closely related, either spouse was already married or one party only consented to the marriage because of duress or fraud. Impotence and failing to obtain a marriage license are also grounds for annulment.

Contested and Uncontested Divorce

In getting a divorce in Virginia, the couple may cooperate throughout the divorce proceedings and reach their own agreement, or the divorce may be settled by the court. If the spouses agree on the terms of the divorce and their settlement agreement spells out all the rights and responsibilities regarding spousal support, child support, custody and property division, the couple may avoid having the court determine the terms of the divorce. However, if the divorce is contested, meaning that the couple disagrees on either the grounds or the terms of the settlement agreement, the court will determine the terms of the divorce for them.