What You Should Know About Divorce in VA

History of Divorce: Evolving Law

Until the 17th century the only divorce was a divorce from bed and board granted by the ecclesiastical (church) courts to a wife upon proof of desertion or abuse. This type of divorce did not dissolve the marriage or allow for remarriage thereafter. Only death dissolved the bond of marriage.

In England, after the reign of Henry VIII, an absolute divorce dissolving the bond of matrimony and allowing remarriage could only be obtained by a special act of Parliament. In Virginia, courts had no authority to grant divorces. Persons seeking divorce had to petition the legislature. It was not until 1841 that an absolute divorce allowing remarriage became obtainable through a judicial proceeding in Virginia. Thereafter over time, additional grounds for divorce were allowed.

In 1960, Virginia introduced its first experiment with “no fault” divorce, requiring separation for a three-year period. The original intent of the statute was to recognize in law those marriages which had ceased to exist in fact. Thereafter the separation period has been gradually reduced to as low as six months. It’s hard to realize that divorce was quite restricted worldwide, especially in predominantly Catholic countries. Movie buffs might remember that there’s a classic movie entitled “Divorce Italian-Style” from the 1960’s in which a man is seeking to murder his wife because he cannot divorce her so that he can remarry.

Why You Need a Lawyer

Because there is no historic basis for common law divorce, it is a creature of statute. This means that the statutory requirements must be followed in every detail. Unless you are familiar with the laws and procedures governing divorce in your state, you need to retain a good family law attorney. In fact, even if you are somewhat familiar with the laws and procedures governing divorce, emotional tensions and stress associated with separation and divorce makes it difficult for individuals to make sound decisions. If our are facing these decisions, you should retain an experienced family law attorney to advise and counsel you. For a more detailed rationale see my article entitled “Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer” available for free down load for personal use through this website.

Grounds for Divorce (In Virginia); Different Types of Divorce

There are two types of divorce in Virginia. A bed and board decree is a partial or qualified divorce under which the bond of marriage is not entirely dissolved. Under this type of divorce, the court decrees that the husband and wife are to live perpetually separate in their persons and property. They are divorced for most purposes, but the marriage bond is not completely severed. Neither party is free to marry another person or to engage in sexual relations with another person. Such a subsequent marriage would be bigamous and such relations would constitute adultery. On the other hand, in the event the couple should reconcile and resume cohabitation, they may petition the court to dismiss the divorce. The other type of divorce, a divorce from the bond of matrimony, dissolves the bond of marriage and re-establishes the individual as single such that the party may marry 快速離婚 again.

Must Prove Grounds

Even if both husband and wife agree on a divorce, grounds or legally prescribed reasons must exist and be proven to the satisfaction of the court.

The grounds for divorce from bed and board are (1) willful desertion or abandonment or (2) cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. Desertion is a unilateral cessation of cohabitation with intent to remain apart permanently in the mind of the offender. Separation by mutual consent is not desertion. Leaving the marital home for a weekend or a long weekend with the intent to return is not desertion. On the other hand, if a spouse is forced to leave by the cruel acts of the other, he or she is not guilty of desertion and may be awarded a divorce upon the ground of cruelty. If a spouse was justified in leaving the marriage, he is not guilty of desertion.


Acts that tend to cause bodily harm and render cohabitation unsafe constitute the ground fo cruelty. If the conduct of a spouse is so outrageous as to harm or endanger the mental or physical health of the other spouse, this can amount to cruelty sufficient to establish grounds for divorce.

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

The grounds for an absolute divorce dissolving the bond of matrimony are found in Virginia Code §20-91. The grounds include: adultery; sodomy or buggery committed outside of the marriage; desertion for one year or cruelty followed by a one-year separation; during the marriage, one party has been convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than one year and confined subsequent to the conviction (and there has been no cohabitation after knowledge of the confinement; separating with the intention of remaining apart permanently and remaining apart for one year or more, or in the event that there are no minor children born or adopted by the parties and the parties have entered into a written property settlement six months.