Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) November 19, 2013 – Divorce law recently became an issue in the Virginia governor's race.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, launched a television ad drawing attention to the fact that Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate, had supported a 2008 bill that would have placed restrictions on “no-fault” divorce in Virginia. Although the bill was not successful, the current back-and-forth between candidates on the issue has led to confusion. Prominent divorce attorney Lisa McDevitt clarifies the law on no-fault divorce in Virginia.
“In the state of Virginia, a no-fault divorce is available to couples who have been separated for a certain period of time, either one year for couples with minor children or six months if there are no children and there is a Property Settlement or Separation Agreement,” said McDevitt.
According to McDevitt, even if both spouses agree that a marriage should end, Virginia courts require grounds for the divorce. This can include traditional fault grounds for divorce such as adultery or conviction of a felony. In the case of fault grounds such as abandonment or cruelty, a spouse can obtain a “divorce from bed and board,” or legal separation, which can then be merged into a divorce from the bonds of matrimony after one year of separation.
By contrast, a no-fault divorce can be obtained if a husband and wife are intentionally separated for the specified amount of time,with the separation providing the grounds for divorce.
“Couples will often use the separation rule to obtain a no-fault divorce, because it usually ends up being less expensive and any fault that does exist does not become a matter of public record in the divorce proceedings,” said McDevitt. “However, if fault does exist, the innocent party can use this fact as a bargaining chip in determining alimony or the division of property.”
The unsuccessful legislation proposed in 2008 would have prevented a spouse from unilaterally filing for divorce under the separation ground if the couple had minor children. Proponents of the bill said that it would promote marital preservation and result in more children being raised in a household with both parents. Opponents argued that it can be traumatic for children to stay in homes with dysfunctional marriages.
Lisa Lane McDevitt
2155 Bonaventure Drive
Vienna, VA 22181