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Manassas, VA 20110
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Irreconcilable Differences and Virginia Divorce Law

by | July 15, 2020 | 0 comments

Rarely is the decision to divorce a spouse an easy one. Confronting a choice you never considered can be heart-wrenching. Emotional and financial tolls weigh especially heavy throughout the process.  This can leave a great deal of uncertainty regarding an entire family’s future.  Divorce goes far beyond the simple idea of no longer living with a person.  The dissolution of a marriage can have far-reaching and wide-ranging effects.  Personal property, child custody and visitation rights, financial asset management, and financial liabilities are among some of the various areas that change whenever a couple files for divorce. 

The State of Virginia has specific rules to follow when entering into the divorce process.  These rules do not always coincide with the divorce laws of other states.  It is important to keep in mind that what may have been popularized elsewhere may not apply within every state.  Irreconcilable differences and Virginia divorce laws is one such example. 

The following entry aims to define common terms, such as “irreconcilable differences,” used during divorce proceedings and clear up any misconceptions related to Virginia divorce law.

What Does Irreconcilable Differences Mean?

You may have previously heard people use the term “irreconcilable differences” when referring to a divorce.  This is a general term and does not carry with it a strict legal definition in the state of Virginia.

“Irreconcilable differences” applies to a scenario where a married couple cannot get along with each other in order to keep the marriage functioning in a successful manner.  The specific reason for the differences is not important, only that the differences are so pronounced that the marriage cannot continue.

Are Irreconcilable Differences Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?

No.  Virginia does not recognize or grant divorces based on “irreconcilable differences.”  There must either be fault grounds for divorce or no fault grounds.

Some states do grant divorces based on irreconcilable differences, but Virginia only has two types of divorces:  a divorce from bed and board (mensa et thoro) and a divorce from the bonds of matrimony (vincula matrimonii).

Needless to say, Irreconcilable differences and Virginia divorce law do not go hand-in-hand.

Do I Have to Prove My Spouse Did Something Wrong?

Only in the scenario of a fault grounds divorce will you have to prove that your partner committed an act that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.  These circumstances include:

  • Adultery-Virginia State Code defines adultery as “the act of sexual intercourse by a married person with any person who is not their spouse.”
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Cruelty by a spouse that results in reasonable fear of bodily harm.  A single, isolated instance of violence must rise to the level of endangering life or cause the continued fear of future danger to constitute cruelty.
  • Desertion of abandonment (at least one year in length). Desertion does not have to mean physically leaving the marital home.  It can occur if a spouse totally neglects and ignores their marital duties to the extent that the marriage is intolerable.

In these cases the burden of proof can be quite high. Any evidence presented will need to meet the standards of the judge presiding over the case.  As divorce attorneys, we can’t site adultery as a fault ground if two individuals continue to live together or have sexual relations.  A statute of limitations of 5 years also exists when attempting to cite adultery as grounds for divorce.

What is “No-Fault” Grounds for Divorce?

No fault divorce occurs when the divorcing couple agrees to separate legally without assigning responsibility or blame for the collapse of the marriage.  This allows couples to divorce more easily and remain amicable.

Why File for Divorce on No-Fault Grounds?

A no-fault divorce also allows for a more civil divorce process.  Neither party has to cite bad behavior or rehash past issues.  Children avoid seeing or hearing either parent in a negative light throughout the proceedings.

How Long do I Have to Wait to File for Divorce?

All divorces in Virginia must be based on a period of separation or fault.

A no-fault divorce requires a separation between the involved parties for one year.  This time-frame may be reduced to 6 months if there are no minor children involved.  The couple must have also entered a separation agreement.

In order to obtain a divorce in Virginia, one party from the marriage must be a Virginia resident for at least 6 months prior to filing.

What Does it Mean to be Separated?

The state of Virginia recognizes individuals as “separated” only after they have lived separately for one year. There must also be intent that this separation is permanent in nature.  Any acts that run counter to this intent can potentially cause the one year counter to reset.  This includes running errands for the former spouse, infrequent affection or sexual activity, and gifts or financial support.

What is a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement is a notarized document that both parties sign and agree to prior to trial.  This agreement contains the manner of property/debt division.  Any additional spousal or child support is also determined.  Having a completed and agreed upon separation agreement expedites the divorce process.

How Will the Assets Be Divided?  

The division of assets generates, at times, a large amount of conflict when divorcing.  It is not as simple as “what’s mine is mine” and “what’s yours is yours.”  Marriages in Virginia are considered partnerships or shared enterprises.  The state applies the Equitable Distribution method. This allocates most of the property and ties in question, equally. The idea behind the statute is to evenly distribute resources.  These resources are allocated throughout the agreement based on how each party contributed to the marriage and their respective maintenance of property.

Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

Online ads for “do-it-yourself” divorce advertisements are frequently seen. Ease of use and quick results are the typical selling points, but many things related to divorce proceedings that cannot be replicated by someone who is not a trained attorney.  The benefit of quality legal counsel throughout a major life process is invaluable. Experienced Virginia attorneys  can help you navigate the complex web of divorce law.  This helps ensure you see a favorable outcome.  Failing to retain adequate counsel can end up creating more troubles and ultimately becoming more expensive  in the long run.

The Attorneys at Manassas Law Group Can Help

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re considering divorce, even if you and your spouse have very few assets or stumbling blocks, then speaking with a member of Manassas Law Group can assist you in developing and executing the optimal legal strategy.  Contact our firm today at 703-361-8246 or send an email.

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