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Understanding Annulments and Divorce in Virginia

When a relationship is ending it can be distressing.  When a marriage is ending, it can be devastating. Because a marriage is a legally binding document, validated by a license issued by the Clerk of the Circuit Court, dissolving your marriage requires legal action.  While ending your marriage requires legal action, there are a couple of avenues to consider.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a marriage can be deemed void or voidable through an annulment or legally dissolved through a divorce.

An annulment makes legally void an invalid marriage.  Grounds to prove the invalidity of a marriage include, but are not limited to, circumstances where the marriage was entered into because of fraud or duress.  Because an annulment only applies to an invalid marriage, the marriage’s invalidity must be legally proven.  One example of a marriage where annulment is applicable due to fraud is a marriage whereby one party concealed from the other a felony conviction which occurred prior to the marriage.

If your marriage is legally valid, an annulment is not an option, and you may consider pursuing a divorce to terminate your marriage.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are two forms of divorce – divorce from bed and board (a mensa et thoro) and divorce from the bonds of matrimony (a vinculo matrimonii).

A divorce from bed and board is a limited divorce, a legal act of separation.  In a bed and board divorce, the spouses will be physically separated.  Unlike a divorce from the bonds of matrimony (also known as absolute divorce), tax and insurance benefits remain intact with a divorce from bed and board.  However, neither party may remarry until an absolute divorce is granted.

Not everyone may file for a bed and board divorce.  There are strict criteria in order to pursue a bed and board divorce.  Most notably, this type of divorce is a fault-based divorce.  The grounds for procuring a divorce from bed and board include:  cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willful desertion or abandonment.

The appeal of a bed and board divorce is that the process begins sooner.  During the pendency of the bed and board divorce, the court may issue temporary orders regarding support, maintenance of health coverage and life insurance, payments of debts, custody/visitation of children, exclusive possession of the family residence and no dissipation of assets.

A divorce from the bonds of matrimony is also known as an absolute divorce because through it, the divorce is finalized in every capacity including the division of marital property and debt, support, and custody/visitation.  To begin the absolute divorce process, the spouses must be living separately for one year or in the case of having no minor children and a separation agreement in place – six months of living separately.

Regardless of the type of divorce that you are considering, the divorce process has many steps.  The advice and guidance of an experienced divorce attorney is critical to you achieving your best outcome during the process.  Whether you need help defining length of separation, filing a complaint for divorce, or mediating for child custody, a skilled divorce attorney is of the utmost importance.  Hunter Law Firm is here to provide you sound legal counsel to guide you through the divorce process.  To discuss your divorce or family law matter with one of our experienced lawyers, contact us online or call one of our four convenient offices.

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