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No-Fault vs. Fault Divorce in Virginia

In the past, people in Virginia and other states were limited to filing for divorce based on fault grounds. They would need to present evidence of the fault before they could obtain a divorce. If they could not convince a judge that their spouses were guilty of the allegations of fault, the court could refuse to grant their divorces.

All states, including Virginia, now recognize no-fault divorce. Today, people in the commonwealth can choose whether to pursue fault or no-fault divorces when they want to end their marriages. It is essential to understand the differences between these two different methods of divorcing in Virginia to figure out which type might be best for you. An experienced Manassas divorce attorney at the law firm of Tobias Iszard, PC can help you understand your options and help you make the most appropriate choice.

What Is a Fault Divorce in Virginia?

In a fault divorce, one spouse makes allegations that the other spouse did something during the marriage that caused the need for getting divorced. The fault grounds are located in Va. Code Ann. § 20-91 and include the following:

  • Adultery
  • Felony conviction with confinement for a year or more
  • Cruelty
  • Abandonment for at least one year

These are the only fault grounds recognized in Virginia. To pursue a fault divorce, the wronged spouse must file a petition in the court alleging one of the above-listed fault grounds. The spouse who claims the other spouse acted in such a way that caused the divorce will have the burden of proof to prove their allegations against the other spouse.

What Is a No-Fault Divorce in Virginia?

Instead of pursuing a fault divorce and being required to prove the allegations against your spouse in court, another option is a no-fault divorce. In this type of divorce, either spouse can file a petition for a no-fault divorce without blaming the other spouse. A no-fault divorce is generally less complex and litigious. However, there is a waiting period of one year if you share children or six months if you do not share children, during which you must live separately before you can file a petition.

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in Virginia: Which Is Better?

There are different advantages and disadvantages of both types of divorce in Virginia. Spouses who feel wronged because of the actions of their spouses sometimes want to hold them accountable in court by pursuing fault divorce cases. A fault divorce might be beneficial for people who think they might secure a larger share of the property settlement or prevent the other spouse from pursuing spousal support. A fault divorce also does not have a waiting period, unlike a no-fault divorce.

However, pursuing a fault divorce presents multiple disadvantages. Even if your spouse has committed adultery, for example, you'll have to weigh your options carefully. You will have to present clear and convincing evidence in court that your spouse committed adultery to meet your burden of proof in this type of situation.

Fault Divorce:

  • Fault divorces are frequently more complex and can last a long time even though there is no waiting period.
  • They generally tend to involve more litigation and cost more money.

However, if your spouse is at fault and you have sufficient evidence to prove your case, you could pursue a fault divorce to get the process started. Your divorce attorney can help you understand whether it might be a good idea in your situation or if you should instead pursue a no-fault divorce.

No-Fault Divorce:

  • No-fault divorces can be filed by either spouse
  • You are not required to meet a burden of proof for why your marriage broke down
  • You are required to live separately for at least one year if you have children or for six months if you don't

While the waiting period might appear to make the process longer, being able to file a fault divorce without waiting does not necessarily mean that a fault divorce will be resolved faster. In reality, no-fault divorces often move much faster because the spouses typically agree to make the process smooth. You can spend the waiting period preparing for your divorce while you live apart so that it can move quickly once you file. Your attorney can help you negotiate with your estranged spouse to try to secure a separation agreement that covers how to divide your property, whether either of you will receive spousal support, how child custody and support will be handled, and any other aspect of your case.

  • no-fault divorce might also mean that you only need to appear in court once when the judge accepts your separation agreement and finalizes your divorce.
  • A fault divorce might involve multiple hearings and a potential divorce trial before a resolution might be reached.

Since not as much time in court is required in a no-fault divorce, the process might also be substantially cheaper than what you might expect to pay for a fault divorce. It can also help to reduce the emotional conflict you might have with your spouse and spend less time fighting with him or her over divorce-related issues. If you have children, minimizing the emotional conflict involved in your divorce might be much healthier for them.

Get Help From an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Manassas

If you are a Virginia resident and want to end your marriage, you should contact an experienced divorce lawyer at Tobias Iszard, PC for advice about how to pursue your case. Your attorney can help provide guidance and negotiate on your behalf to protect your interests throughout the process.

Call us today to request a consultation at (703) 215-1880.