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What types of divorce are recognized in Virginia?

As divorce loses its negative stigma, it is becoming more acceptable and commonplace for a couple in a troubled marriage to decide to end their union. However, any divorce in Virginia needs to fall under one of two categories: divorce from bed and board or divorce from the bond of matrimony. Let's examine what each of these categories entails, and what they mean for couples who are seeking to end their marriage.

In a divorce from bed or board, the divorce is considered to be either qualified or partial, meaning that the spouses are under a legal separation but are unable per law to marry each other again. One ground for divorce that falls under divorce from bed and board is willful desertion or abandonment. Another ground for divorce that falls under divorce from bed and board is cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. When it comes to either of these grounds for divorce, once such a divorce is granted, after 12 months or more has passed since the couple separated, either party can request that the court merge the divorce decree into a divorce from the bond of matrimony.

In contrast to a divorce from bed or board, in a divorce from the bond of matrimony the dissolution is considered to be complete and absolute. Under this category of divorce, the grounds for divorce need to be in existence and the parties need to provide the court with proof that these grounds exist. This is true even if in an uncontested divorce. One ground for divorce that falls under divorce from the bond of matrimony is a separation or "no fault" divorce. Other grounds for divorce that fall under divorce from the bond of matrimony are adultery, sodomy and buggery. Conviction of a felony is also a ground for divorce that falls under divorce from the bond of matrimony.

Choosing the right grounds for divorce is important to ensuring that the dissolution process runs as smoothly as possible. Future posts will discuss these grounds in more detail. Until then, those who want to learn more about the grounds for divorce in Virginia should seek the advice they need to make an informed decision.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Divorce in Virginia," accessed Feb. 3, 2018

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