Virginia law recognizes two types of divorce: divorce from the bonds of matrimony and divorce from bed and board. The distinction between these two types rests on the underlying causes of the split and the ultimate object of the person seeking the divorce.
What is a divorce from bed and board?
A divorce from bed and board is akin to a legal separation. Spouses who receive a divorce from bed and board may not remarry. In short, the term refers to a qualified divorce. A spouse can pursue this action on one of two grounds:
- Willful desertion or abandonment:This requires breaking off cohabitation with an intent to desert. One who leaves to escape legal cruelty will not be deemed to have deserted.
- Cruelty and reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm: Cruelty refers to something that makes living together unsafe for one spouse. A spouse can file for divorce on this ground immediately, with no waiting period. Mental cruelty alone does not satisfy this requirement.
What is a divorce from the bond of matrimony?
A divorce from the bond of matrimony is acomplete and absolute divorce. This action has three legal grounds:
- Separation “no fault” divorce: requires a showing that for more than one year the parties intended and continued to live separately. A six-month timeframe applies to those who have entered a property settlement or separation agreement.
- Adultery, sodomy or buggery: Adultery requires a fact-specific investigation. Sodomy and buggery involve specific sexual acts.
- Felony conviction: As long as the co-habitant does not resume cohabitation with a spouse confined for more than one year, the spouse may pursue this action.
An important note lies in that a spouse granted a divorce from bed and board may request the court merge it into a divorce from the bond of matrimony after at least a year of separation, provided legal grounds remain for a divorce.
Every divorce has specific origins and requires well-crafted solutions. An attorney with knowledge of how each type of divorce works best for a specific situation can offer guidance.