Monday, August 8, 2011

Adultery as grounds for divorce in Virginia

Virginia still recognizes fault grounds for divorce, and adultery is the only one that does not require any waiting period. If you can prove your spouse committed adultery by “clear and convincing evidence,” you can get an immediate divorce. Virginia Code Annotated Sections 20-91(A)(1) is the law providing adultery as a ground for divorce and Section 20-94 provides that it must be within five years of filing suit without any cohabitation after finding out about the adultery.
While adultery eliminates the 6 or 12 month waiting period for a divorce based on separation, it may not make a difference regarding equitable distribution of property unless there is an “economic impact.” Examples of economic impact include things like your spouse spending marital money or income on his or her lover. While the law requires an economic impact, many judges take adultery into account as a negative contribution to the marriage. Also, it is specifically relevant to the consideration of spousal support. If the spouse who wants support commits adultery, they are barred from support unless the other spouse has also cheated or unless it creates a “manifest injustice.” A manifest injustice means it is unfair to deny spousal support. This could be because the cheating spouse has given up a career to stay at home for the sake of the family or because the cheating spouse was physically abused by the other spouse. The determination of manifest injustice is usually fact specific and decided on a case by case basis.

If one spouse committed adultery and both parties want a divorce and just don’t want to wait the 6 or 12 months required, an uncontested divorce can be obtained on the grounds of adultery if the paramour is willing to sign an affidavit admitting to the sexual relationship.

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