It’s a question family law attorney Rebecca Wade gets all the time: What are the grounds for divorce in Virginia? In this week’s FAQ Friday, Wade explains the difference between fault-based divorce and no-fault divorce.
In a fault-based divorce, the spouse filing has to prove fault on the part of the other spouse — while, in a no-fault divorce, the spouse seeking a divorce does not.
Fault-based grounds for divorce include:
-Desertion (constructive or actual)
-Felony conviction after the marriage
The no-fault grounds for divorce require a couple to be separated for 12 months before filing for divorce. One exception is if there are no minor children and the divorce is entirely uncontested. In that case, a spouse can file after 6 months. “One of the reasons people in Virginia often choose to file for divorce under fault-based grounds rather than no-fault is because they have to wait those full 12 months to file,” Wade explains. “The grounds for divorce have to exist at the time of filing, so you can’t file for a no-fault divorce when you’re separated and just wait for the judge to enter the order after 12 months.”
Wade says some people strategically file on fault-based grounds even if they don’t plan to get divorced on those grounds because it gets them into court sooner. This is often a tactic for couples who are not able to reach an agreement on finances during the 12-month separation period. In this case, Wade says filing for divorce, getting in front of a court and having a judge enter orders as to how expenses are going to be shared during that period of separation can be very beneficial.