Most states allow what are called “no-fault divorces.” In these states, a couple can end their marriage by agreement and without proving that one or both parties engaged in conduct detrimental to the marital relationship. Virginia’s divorce laws make the path to marital termination somewhat more complex.
Two kinds of divorce exist in Virginia: divorce from bed and board, and divorce from the bond of matrimony. A divorce from bed and board ends the marriage, but neither spouse is allowed to remarry. A divorce from the bond of matrimony is a complete termination of the marriage.
A divorce from bed and board can be granted if one party has deserted the other. A mutual desire to separate does not constitute desertion. The party accused of desertion must intend to break-off cohabitation with the other spouse. Cruelty and the reasonable apprehension of bodily harm is another ground for a divorce from bed and board. If a couple remains divorced from bed and board for more than one year, either party can ask a court to merge the bed and board divorce with a divorce from the bond of matrimony, thereby legally ending the marriage.
A divorce from the bond of matrimony is Virginia’s equivalent of a “no fault” divorce. A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be granted if the parties have lived apart for more than one year without any cohabitation. If the parties have signed a written property settlement or settlement agreement, and if they have no minor children, the time period is reduced to six months.
Conduct formerly thought of as “fault” can enter the divorce proceeding if either party asks for spousal support (alimony) or child support. A person who is at fault cannot obtain alimony, and a person who has committed any form of marital faulty may be required to pay alimony as a form of penalty. Fault is proven by evidence that demonstrates that one party is guilty of adultery, sodomy or buggery or has been convicted of a felony.