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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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Will My Spouse Being Charged with Domestic Violence Affect our Divorce?


If you are in a marriage with domestic violence, it’s imperative you seek assistance right away. If there is spousal abuse in your marriage, it can affect your divorce in multiple ways, including financial judgments, communications, and decisions regarding child custody.

Citing Cruelty as Grounds for Divorce

The majority of divorces in Virginia are no-fault divorces, meaning the couples satisfied the separation requirements. In other divorce matters, the petitioner is filing for divorce based on the other spouse’s bad behavior. Grounds for an at-fault divorce can include:

  • Cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Abandonment/Desertion

To proceed under the grounds of cruelty, you must be able to prove there was physical violence, a fear of physical violence, or emotional abuse. You might be wondering why you should file for divorce under these grounds if you already qualify for the no-fault option. Proceeding with grounds of cruelty could result in a more favorable ruling on important issues like child custody, property division, and spousal support. Some states will allow you to fast-track a divorce to help domestic abuse victims, but Virginia still requires the separation period. The required period is 12 months if you have children, or six months with no minor children and a signed property settlement agreement.

While spousal support is designed to help financially support one spouse as they get back on their feet, it’s not intended to be a punishment for a spouse that is guilty in an at-fault divorce. However, a judge may take into account that a divorce is being granted on the grounds of cruelty when making a decision on how much to award.

Virginia Domestic Violence Laws

Virginia Code Section 18.2-57.2 discusses domestic violence and states that anyone who commits assault or battery on a household member or family member will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. An assault is when someone threatens you, has the means to carry out the threat, and you have a reasonable fear of being hurt. There is no requirement for physically touching someone to be guilty of assault. Battery is the physical act of touching someone, which may or may not result in a physical injury. It’s not uncommon to have someone charged with both assault and battery.

How a Protective Order Impacts Your Divorce

For people in dangerous situations, the court may issue a protective order to ensure you and your children have a safe living environment. There are different types of orders, and each has a different impact on your divorce. If the court issues a protective order based on domestic violence, you and your spouse cannot continue living together and your contact with each other will be limited. This can obviously impact settlement negotiations. The court may, however, allow you to contact each other through a third party to discuss the divorce and your children.

Retaining a Virginia Domestic Violence Attorney

If you are filing for divorce and have been the victim of domestic violence, it’s important to retain a compassionate yet experienced Virginia divorce attorney. At Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC, we have years of experience handling family law matters that involve domestic violence. Contact our office today at 703-997-4982 to schedule a 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!