Virginia law recognizes two types of divorce: divorce from bed and board (a mensa et thoro) and a divorce from the bond of matrimony (a vinculo matrimonii).
A divorce from bed and board is a partial or qualified divorce under which the parties are legally separated from each other but are not permitted to remarry.
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Prepared by the Family Law Section of the VIRGINIA STATE BAR Given the percentage of marriages that end in divorce, anyone could be affected in some way by a separation or divorce.
Dissolving a marriage often involves property rights and financial matters, and can raise complicated legal problems, especially when children are involved.
The Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar prepared this pamphlet to provide the public with basic answers to some of the fundamental legal questions concerning divorce and separation in Virginia.
We hope that this information will help people understand some of the complications that can arise in this area of the law.
The law requires that "grounds" (valid reasons for divorce prescribed by law) for divorce must exist and be proven to the court even if the parties agree that a marriage should end. A mere separation by mutual consent will not be considered desertion.
Further, if one spouse leaves because the other has committed acts that legally amount to cruelty, then the spouse who leaves is not guilty of desertion.
In fact, the spouse who leaves may be awarded a divorce on the ground of cruelty or constructive desertion.
If desertion grounds exist, a suit for a divorce from bed and board may be filed with the court immediately after the separation.
If the desertion continues for more than one year from the date the parties originally separated, then the desertion is sufficient to constitute a ground for divorce from the bond of matrimony. Cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm Cruelty authorizing divorce requires acts that tend to cause bodily harm and render the spouses living together unsafe.
Mental cruelty alone is not normally a ground for divorce in Virginia.
However, if the conduct is such that it affects and endangers the mental or physical health of the divorce-seeking spouse, it may be sufficient to establish grounds for divorce.