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Can Virginians pursue a ‘no-fault’ divorce?

Some marriages come to an end due to a specific act of one spouse. For example, one spouse may be unfaithful to their partner or may be abusive. While Virginia law does recognize several different specific fault-based grounds for divorce, it also recognizes what is coequally known as “no-fault” divorce. Per Virginia Code §20-91(9)(a), the requirements for a no-fault divorce differ depending whether the couple has children and on the length of time the couple has been separated.

A couple can pursue a no-fault divorce in Virginia if they have resided separately for one consecutive year and have not cohabitated. However, if the couple has a separation agreement, no minor children of the marriage and have not cohabitated, then they may pursue a no-fault divorce after living separately for six consecutive months.

A no-fault divorce is often sought by couples in Virginia who wish to end their marriage, but have not experienced any abuse, cruelty, adultery or other circumstances that are named in Virginia statutes as specific grounds for divorce. This is important, as oftentimes a couple simply grows apart to the point that their marriage is no longer viable. It is also important to note that no-fault divorce in Virginia is based on separation, rather than simply being able to cite “irreconcilable differences,” as is possible in other states.

A no-fault divorce was not always available as a ground for divorce many years ago, meaning that couples wishing to divorce had to do so based on fault. If they could not claim some type of fault for the divorce, these couples were often trapped in an unhappy marriage. Therefore, the advent of no-fault divorce has helped many couples end their marriages, even if neither party was specifically at fault for the end of their union.

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