Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

Grounds for Divorce in Virginia

Deciding to file for divorce is not an easy decision. When you decide that moving forward with a divorce is right for you and your family, the law requires that you have a reason. Legally, this is known as the “ground” or “grounds” for divorce. Each state has specific grounds for divorce. In Virginia, generally, we have fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.


While the blame game is common when it comes to divorce, those excuses may not be legal grounds for a fault-based divorce. Virginia is one of the only states that continue to allow these types of divorces. Virginia law is specific as to what is considered fault-based grounds. They are the following:

  • Sexual acts outside the marriage to include adultery, sodomy, and buggery. Adultery is defined as the act of sexual intercourse by a married person with any person that is not their spouse. Sodomy includes oral and anal sex and is often alleged with adultery as adultery often includes acts of sodomy. Buggery is bestiality or another sexual act against nature. All three of these sex acts are grounds for divorce and require strict proof.
  • Conviction of a felony during the marriage that includes a sentence of confinement for more than one year. The conviction and sentencing must have occurred after your date of marriage and you must not have lived together after the conviction or sentencing.
  • Cruelty which caused reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
  • Desertion or Abandonment.


A no-fault divorce is not based on any negative behavior by either spouse but instead is based on a voluntary separation for a specified period. To be granted a no-fault divorce, Virginia law requires that you prove you have lived separate and apart continuously without cohabitation from your spouse for a specified time. Even if your situation provides for you to file for divorce on fault-based grounds, a no-fault divorce may be more beneficial to your circumstances.

  • One- year separation: In most circumstances, you are required to live separate and apart continuously for one year before you can ask the court for a divorce. Living separate and apart does not necessarily mean you cannot live under the same roof; however, it does require that you are not cohabiting like a husband and a wife. If you have minor children together or if you do not have a signed Property Settlement Agreement or Separation Agreement between you and your spouse, then a one-year continuous separation is required.
  • Six-month separation: You may ask the court for a divorce after a six-month continuous separation if you do not have minor children together and you have a signed Property Settlement Agreement or Separation Agreement between you and your spouse.

If you are thinking about moving forward with a divorce or have made the decision that divorce is the next step for your family then you need to talk to an attorney to help you navigate the process. Often, the process of a divorce can be overwhelming and emotional. The attorneys at Phillips & Peters are ready to help you achieve your legal goals, work together with you as professional friends, and move your forward in the right direction.


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