FACTS ABOUT DIVORCE
By Jeffrey W. Stowers, Esq. | The Ratliff Law Firm
Divorce can be a stressful on everyone. On the upside, the divorce process can be made easier if you have a skilled attorney assisting you in the proceedings. Our attorneys have years of experience with contested divorce cases under all possible fault-based grounds in Virginia, including adultery, both physical and mental abuse/cruelty, and abandonment/desertion. We also handle uncontested divorces, under the no-fault ground of separation. However, in order to be granted a no-fault divorce there a statutory time limit of separation that must be reached. Parties can be granted a no-fault divorce provided that they have been separated for at least six months, have an Marital Dissolution Agreement/Property Settlement Agreement endorsed by both parties, and do not have any minor children. However, if the parties do not have a MDA/PSA and/or have children under the age of 18, the parties must be separated for at least twelve months.
Grounds for Divorce in Virginia. In some instances, no-fault grounds are just not enough. In those instances, divorces may be granted based on other grounds. The contested grounds for divorce in Virginia are:
Adultery. The adultery ground for divorce requires proof by “clear and convincing evidence” of sexual intercourse, sodomy, or buggery, with another person other than the spouse. Adultery can be very difficult to prove, but if proven may have serious financial implications in the divorce, at least on the issue of spousal support.
Physical and/or Mental Abuse/Cruelty. The cruelty ground requires proof of “cruelty or reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt.” Acts of physical violence and conduct that endanger the life, safety, or health of one’s spouse, abusive language, humiliating statements, and repeated neglect can constitute abuse/cruelty. Abuse can be proven by evidence of a numerous incidents of abuse or a single act of extreme abuse/cruelty.
Abandonment. The desertion or abandonment ground requires proof that a spouse vacated the marital home without the other spouse’s permission with the intent to remain permanently separated. Desertion does not occur if the parties mutually agree to separate.
Please note, however, that there are many other issues that are directly connected to divorce that must also be addressed during a divorce proceeding. These are:
Spousal Support. A spouse is entitled to spousal support in situations where the parties have been married for a substantial amount of time and there is a significant gap in their incomes. Spousal Support can also be granted on a temporary basis while the spouses are separated, but are unable to have the divorce finalized. This option is known as a pendent lite hearing in which spousal support is determined using a court specified formula that is based on income and whether there are minor children born of the marriage. Our attorneys are very familiar and well versed with this formula.
Marital Property. Virginia is an equitable distribution state. WATCH OUT! This does not mean EQUAL. This means property of the parties is classified as separate, marital or hybrid, to distribute any jointly owned marital property between the parties. Federal Retirement Division and other Retirement Plans can also be considered as marital property.
Child Custody and Visitation. Our attorneys have been involved in many tough custody battles across Southwestern Virginia and Southern West Virginia. We have expertise will all forms custody determinations including foster care cases and guardian ad litem work.
Child Support. Child support cases in Virginia range from very simple matters involving routine application of the Virginia child support guidelines, to very complex cases involving the imputation of income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. There are several types of guidelines used by the Court. These guidelines are determined by the type of custody the parties are awarded.