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When can legal separations be converted to divorce in Virginia?

In Virginia, family law disputes do not always lead to an immediate divorce. In some instances, the couple will choose to live separately to determine if they would like to try and salvage the marriage. After sufficient time has passed, a couple has the legal right to convert the case into a divorce. There are certain criteria that must be met for this to be done. Those who are considering a legal separation or are already legally separated and would like to divorce should be aware of this aspect of family law.

If the husband and wife have lived separately and apart without cohabitating and done so with no interruption for a minimum of one year, they can file for divorce and have it granted. If they have a separation agreement and neither party has a minor child either born of either or adopted by both, the divorce can be granted when they apply if they have lived separately and not cohabitated at all for a minimum of six months.

If there has been a plea of res adjudicata - meaning the matter has been judged - or accusations as to other provisions, it will not prevent the couple from getting a divorce based on the legal separation. If either party has been declared insane before or after the separation, this will not preclude the divorce. After one year or six months, depending on the circumstances, that will be sufficient time for the divorce to be granted. If one of the participants is insane, a guardian ad litem will be appointed to provide that person representation.

This law applies regardless of when the separation commenced, before this became law or after. One party can still be obligated to provide support to the other even after the divorce has been granted after a separation. Those who are separated and are considering divorce should be aware of the law related to this situation. Speaking to a legal professional who is experienced in legal separations and moving forward with a divorce can help with a case.

Source: law.lis.virginia.gov, "20-91. Grounds for divorce from bond of matrimony; contents of decree. -- 9," accessed on July 6, 2017

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