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When filing for a divorce, finding fault is not always necessary

If there was ever an appropriate circumstance, divorce proceedings would seem a prime candidate for an exercise in finger-pointing. However, legally speaking, there are situations in which spouses parting ways should seek what is known as a no-fault divorce.

Traditionally, some sort of misconduct has formed the grounds for a divorce. But modern divorce laws do not mandate that “fault” grounds be established in order for a divorce to be granted. Indeed, a spouse does not have to prove that their soon-to-be-ex did anything wrong; instead, the spouse need merely state a reason for the divorce that is recognized by the state in which the divorce is filed.

In Virginia, a no-fault divorce is considered a separation divorce, which is one of the forms of a divorce from the bond of matrimony. The commonwealth requires that a couple live apart for a period of time before a no-fault divorce is granted. 

In many cases, the divorce is sanctioned if at least one of the spouses lived apart for more than one year and if the spouses have lived continuously separate, without cohabitation.

The one-year separation requirement does not apply in cases where the spouses have entered into a property settlement or separation agreement and there are no minor children involved. Under those circumstances, the required separation time period is reduced to six months.

While separation provides the grounds for a no-fault divorce, there may be issues, including spousal support or the division of property, in which fault becomes a factor. In such cases, a judge may award a divorce on fault grounds. Conversely, a judge may still opt to award a no-fault divorce in cases where there are grounds for fault.

Whether a divorce is ultimately a no-fault process or not, the person seeking it should employ the counsel of an experienced family law attorney, who can apprise him or her of legal rights and act as an effective advocate during any divorce proceedings.

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