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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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What are the Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?


If you are considering terminating your marriage via a divorce, it’s important to understand how Virginia law works. The state requires that grounds for divorce exist and can be proven to the court, even in situations where both parties agree to terminate the marriage.

The two main grounds for divorce are no-fault (if you meet the requirements for separation) or fault if your spouse is guilty of marital misconduct. We recommend contacting an experienced Virginia divorce attorney to understand your options and ensure you meet the requirements to file.

No Fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce is called a divorce from the bond of matrimony if you can show that you have been separated for more than a year without any periods of cohabitation. If you and your spouse entered into a separation agreement or property settlement agreement, and you don’t have any minor children, the period of time is reduced to six months instead of one year.

While this is a no-fault divorce, fault can still be an issue if one party is seeking spousal support, or it can be one of the determining factors when dividing marital property. A judge has the authority to award a divorce on fault grounds even if there is a “no fault” separation, and vice versa.

Adultery, Sodomy, or Buggery

Proving adultery is difficult. The evidentiary requirements are strict and have to show conclusive proof your spouse engaged in sexual relations with someone outside of the marriage. There must be some corroboration of spouse’s testimony, but there is no need for eyewitness testimony.

Felony Conviction

If your spouse is convicted of a felony and is sentenced to longer than a year in jail and is serving the time, you have grounds for a divorce provided you don’t resume cohabitation once you have knowledge of the confinement.

Willful Desertion or Abandonment

Willful desertion or abandonment involves both ending cohabitation and an intent to desert his or her spouse. When you mutually agree to separate, that does not qualify as desertion. If one spouse opts to leave due to acts that can qualify as cruelty, it is not considered desertion.

Cruelty and Reasonable Apprehension of Bodily Harm

If you want to divorce on the grounds of cruelty, it requires acts that can cause bodily harm and make it unsafe for the spouses to live together. In most cases, mental cruelty by itself is not enough to quality for divorce unless it endangers the physical or mental health of the spouse who is seeking the divorce. Just the use of rude words is not enough.

Retaining a Virginia Divorce Attorney

If you have questions on the grounds for divorce in Virginia, let one of our experienced Virginia divorce attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC help. Our team has years of experience helping clients throughout Virginia finalize their divorces. In addition, we can help with all other related family law matters like spousal support, child custody, and child support. Contact our Leesburg office at 703-997-4982 today to schedule an initial consultation.


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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!