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Grounds of Divorce Under Virginia Law

Posted by attorney Shane Jimison

In Virginia, a divorce may be granted on four grounds:

  1. Adultery

  2. Conviction of a felony

  3. Cruelty or desertion

  4. Living Separate and apart

Of the 4 grounds, the first three are considered “fault" grounds, whereby those that file for a no-fault divorce state the fourth ground.


A divorce may be granted if one of the parties is found to have committed adultery. The adulterous act must be proved by clear and convincing means, which can often be difficult to prove. It is important for the person who has filed divorce and is alleging adultery against the other person to remember that they are still married until the divorce is final. Post-separation adultery is still adultery, even though the parties have separated.

Adultery generally bars the adulterous spouse from receiving a permanent spousal support award. (child support is never affected by the respective fault of the parents)

Conviction of a felony

If one spouse is convicted of a felony and is sentenced to jail or prison for a period of more than 12 months, a divorce may be granted to the other party.

Cruelty or desertion

Perhaps, the most commonly encountered divorce ground, the grounds of cruelty or desertion may be granted when a spouse has caused a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, or deserted the other spouse. The non-offending spouse may be granted a divorce on these grounds, after 12 months from the date of the act.

Living Separate and Apart

A divorce may be granted if the parties have lived separate and apart for a period of one year (6 months if there is a property settlement agreement and no minor children). One of the parties must have had the intention to be permanently separated on the date of separation. Generally speaking, the parties must not live together at any point during the separation period.

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