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Divorces are often emotionally and financially draining. When under such intense stress, it can seem impossible to navigate the complex legal landscape. Here is a quick guide to get you started.


See VA Code § 20-91

What Are The Types Of Divorce?

Divorce is divided into two categories:

  • 1. Divorce From Bed and Board
    This is considered a partial divorce, because the spouses are legally separated, but are not permitted to remarry.

  • 2. Divorce From The Bond Of Matrimony
    This is a complete divorce. Both parties are able to remarry after obtaining one.

What Are "Grounds for Divorce"?

"Grounds for divorce" are legally valid reasons for getting a divorce. Your grounds for divorce must be proven in court. Grounds are divided into separate categories, based on the type of divorce an individual is seeking.

Divorce From Bed and Board:

Grounds Description
Willful Desertion or Abandonment In order for this apply, one spouse must leave the shared home with the intent of to desert their spouse. A mutual decision to separate does not count as desertion. Similarly, if one spouse leaves their due to abuse, they are not guilty abandonment.

In the case of a desertion, a divorce from bed and board may be filed immediately. However, one must wait six months to a year to apply for a divorce from the bond of matrimony.
Cruelty and Reasonable Apprehension of Bodily Harm Physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse is grounds to obtain a divorce from bed and board. After one year of separation, an individual may get a divorce from the bond of matrimony.

Divorce From The Bond Of Matrimony:

Grounds Description
Separation Divorce This is what is generally referred to as "no fault" divorce. This is granted to people who can show that they have lived separately for more then one year.
Adultery Cheating is grounds for divorce. However, in order to be granted a divorce based in these grounds, it must be proven that the guilty party has engaged in sexual acts with another person. A person accused of adultery will have the opportunity to defend themselves.
Conviction of a Felony If your spouse has been convicted of a felony and been sentenced to one year or more in prison, you may get a divorce from the bond of matrimony. However, the divorce will not be granted on these grounds if you have resumed cohabitation after learning of the conviction.

What About An Annulment?

An annulment is different from a divorce, in that a divorce ends a valid marriage, while an annulment declares the marriage void. The requirements for a legal annulment are much stricter then those for divorce. In general, an annulment will only be granted if the marriage was coerced or one partner committed fraud.

I'm Married To A Same-Sex Partner- Can I Get Divorced?

Divorce for gay couples is much more complicated then it is for heterosexual couples. While a heterosexual marriage is recognized as valid in every state, gay marriage is not. This means that if a gay couple moves to a state that does not recognize gay marriage, such as Virginia, they may not be able to divorce. This is because, in order for Virginia to grant a divorce, the state court would have to recognize the marriage as valid. If one party lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, then the divorce can be granted in that state.

I Just Want The Divorce, Do I Really Need A Lawyer?

It has been our experience that many people go in expecting a "no fault" divorce, only to discover that they or their ex disagree on alimony, property distribution, or custody. Having a lawyer represent your best interests is the safest way to apply for a divorce.

Washington, D.C.

See DC code § 16-901 - § 16-924

What Are the Divorce Laws In D.C.?

D.C. allows for two options:

  • 1.Legal Separation: This is not a divorce, but a legal right to live apart, with the rights and obligations of divorced persons. Those who get a legal separation cannot remarry.

  • 2. Divorce: After a divorce, both parties are able to remarry.

What Are Grounds for Divorce?

D.C. requires the same grounds for divorce as Virginia.


See Md. Family Law Code Ann. § 7-103

What Are the Divorce Laws In Maryland?

Like Virginia, Maryland divides divorce into two categories:

  • 1. Limited Divorce
    This is for couples who are separated by may not meet the legal requirements for a divorce, or while they are pursuing an absolute divorce.

  • 2. Absolute Divorce
    An absolute divorce completely dissolves the marriage. Recognized reasons to get an absolute divorce include adultery, desertion, cruelty or abuse, some criminal convictions and insanity.

What Are Grounds for Divorce?

Grounds For Absolute Divorce

Grounds Description
Two Year Separation If two individuals have lived separately for two years. In order to use this as a grounds for divorce, the separated couple cannot have had sexual intercourse or have spent a night under the same roof in two years.
Voluntary Separation If the couple have lived separately, without spending a single night together, without having sexual intercourse together, and with the express purpose of ending the marriage, for at least twelve months, this can be used as grounds for divorce.
Adultery This can be used as a grounds for divorce if you can prove that your spouse has had voluntary intercourse with another individual.
Desertion If your spouse has left you for at least twelve months, and you have not had sexual relations in this time, you may choose this as grounds for divorce.
Cruelty to you or a minor child If your spouse is a danger to you or your child, and you have no reasonable hope of reconciliation, you may cite this as a reason for divorce.

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