Separation and Divorce

Separating or ending a marriage can be a difficult time for you and your family. Perry Law Group has been advising and guiding people through separation and divorce for over 40 years. If you are thinking about separating or getting a divorce, you need to know your rights and obligations under the law. That said, knowledge is only power if you know how to organize it and apply it in a given situation. Whether it involves a same-sex union or a traditional marriage, it is our job to organize the facts to build your case.

If you and your spouse are thinking of filing for separation or divorce, you need sound advice now. Call 804-520-7060 for a confidential consultation and the representation that you deserve.

Military Divorce

Military divorce presents a set of issues and difficulties. Not only are there potential relocation issues impacting custody and visitation, but issues pertaining to the division of marital assets, jurisdictional issues, issues related to “residence and domicile,” and more. Military divorce litigation and negotiation are not only affected by state laws but federal laws as well, including the statutes enacted to protect military personnel and their spouses.

With our close proximity to Fort Lee, Virginia, Attorney Virginia Perry is an experienced military divorce attorney. Perry Law Group has represented many servicemen and women, as well as military spouses, for the past 40+ years that we have been serving the Southside Virginia area.

Divorce coupon from Perry Law Group

Call 804-520-7060 for details and mention this website.


Q: What is a "no-fault" divorce?
In 1960, Virginia introduced its first experiment with a no-fault divorce, requiring separation for a three year period. The original intent of the statute was to recognize in law those marriages that had ceased to exist in fact. Thereafter the separation period has gradually decreased to as low as six months for couples with no minor children who have settled their property and other issues in writing. Nowadays, no-fault refers to the fact that the divorce is obtained on the basis of having lived apart for the statutory period without pointing out which party is responsible for the breakup.
Q: Do I need a lawyer?
The complexities of family law, coupled with the emotional trauma and tensions associated with separation and divorce, make it difficult for you to make objective decisions at a time when life-changing decisions are required. An experienced, seasoned attorney with a background in counseling and negotiation and specialized knowledge of family law can assist you in navigating the stormy waters of separation and divorce. It has been said: “In the multitude of counselors is wisdom,” and “Every purpose is established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.” When faced with separation or possibly dissolution of your marriage and family, one of your counselors should be an experienced family law attorney.
Q: If my spouse and I agree on divorce, can we do it ourselves?
If you know what to do and how to do it, you might be able to do it yourself. However, Virginia divorce law is not user-friendly to non-attorneys. Furthermore, Attorney Perry has stepped in to help many people who have tried to use the online “do-it-yourself” divorce systems only to find they don’t know enough to get it done; they don’t know how to use the documents that they have purchased. In short, they still need legal help. If you have been separated for a year or more and both of you agree to the divorce, you could qualify for our $499 VA Divorce Special. If you qualify, the divorce is fast, easy, and affordable. And we take care of everything for you. If you don’t qualify for our special, you should probably have a lawyer anyway. After all, how much are your kids worth? What is it worth to get your fair share of assets? How can you know what share is a fair share?
Q: Is there a residency requirement for divorce in Virginia?

Yes. You or your spouse must have been a bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia for at least six months before filing for divorce in Virginia.

Q: What is a "bed and board" divorce?
There are two types of divorce in Virginia. A bed and board decree is a partial or qualified divorce under which the bond of marriage is not entirely dissolved. Under this type of divorce, the court decrees that the husband and wife are to live perpetually separate in their persons and property. They are divorced for most purposes, but the bond is not completely severed. Neither party is free to marry another person or to engage in sexual relations with another person. Such a marriage would be bigamous, and such relations would constitute adultery. On the other hand, in the event the couple should reconcile and resume cohabitation, they may petition the court to dismiss the divorce and resume cohabitation without a second wedding ceremony.
Q: What if I want to be free to marry again?
You need a divorce from the bond of matrimony, which fully dissolves the bond of marriage and re-establishes the individual as single, such that he/she may marry again.
Q: If my spouse and I agree to divorce, do we still need grounds?

Yes, even if both husband and wife agree on a divorce, grounds or legally prescribed reasons must exist and be proven to the satisfaction of the court.

Q: What about "irreconcilable differences" as a ground?

Virginia does not recognize “irreconcilable differences” as a ground for divorce. That does not mean that you cannot end your marriage if you find you and your spouse are incompatible. It does mean that you will have to separate and live apart for the statutory period before filing for divorce.

Q: What are the grounds for a divorce from bed and board?

The grounds are willful desertion or abandonment or cruelty and reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. Desertion is a unilateral cessation of cohabitation with an intent to remain apart permanently in the mind of the offender. Separation by mutual consent is not desertion. On the other hand, if a spouse is forced to leave by the cruel acts of the other, he or she is not guilty of desertion and may be awarded a divorce upon the ground of cruelty.

Q: What constitutes cruelty?

Acts that tend to cause bodily harm and render cohabitation (living together) unsafe constitute the ground of cruelty. If the conduct of a spouse is so outrageous as to harm or endanger the mental or physical health of the other spouse, this can amount to cruelty sufficient to establish grounds for divorce. The Virginia Supreme Court has said “…cruelty that authorizes a divorce is anything that tends to bodily harm and thus renders cohabitation unsafe; or, as expressed in the older decisions, that involves danger of life, limb or health…. [there]…may be cases in which the husband, without violence, actual or threatened, may render the marriage state impossible to be endured…angry words, coarse and abusive language, humiliating insults and annoyances in all the forms that malice can suggest, which may as effectually endanger life or health as personal violence and which, therefore, would afford grounds for relief… what merely wounds the feelings without being accompanied by bodily injury or actual menace—mere austerity of temper, petulance of manner, rudeness of language, want of civil attention and accommodation, or even occasional sallies of passion that do not threaten harm, although they be high offenses against morality in the married state, does not amount to legal cruelty.” (Upchurch v. Upchurch, 194 Va. 990 (1953) )

If you believe that you may have grounds for divorce based upon cruelty, or if you believe that you or your children are in danger from your spouse, you need to seek competent legal advice. To schedule an appointment for a confidential consultation, call us today at 804-520-7060.

Q: What are the grounds that will make me single again?

The grounds for an absolute divorce dissolving the bond of matrimony are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion or cruelty after a one-year separation
  3. Sentence of imprisonment for a felony for more than one year
  4. Separating with the intent to remain apart permanently and living apart for one year
  5. Where there are no minor children and the parties have a written property settlement, separating and living apart for six months
  6. After obtaining a bed and board divorce, upon expiration of the applicable statutory period (either one year or six months)
Q: What is adultery, and how do you prove it?
Adultery occurs when “any person, being married, voluntarily has sexual intercourse with any person that is not his or her spouse.” The proof need not be “eyewitness” testimony and may be circumstantial. However, proof of adultery must be “clear and convincing.” This is the highest standard of proof in civil law. The court has said the proof must be “strict, satisfactory and conclusive.” Suspicious circumstances are not enough. The circumstances which establish adultery must be such as to “lead the guarded discretion of a reasonable and just man to a conclusion of guilt.”
Sexual acts other than intercourse, such as oral or anal sex may also form the grounds for a divorce if committed outside of marriage. The standard of proof is the same as for adultery.
Q: Is there a statute of limitations on adultery?
Yes. The act of adultery complained of must have occurred within FIVE YEARS.
Q: Are there defenses to a charge of adultery?
Yes. Attorney Perry has successfully defended clients accused of adultery, by raising a number of legal defenses. Defenses to a charge of adultery include condonation or forgiveness of the act by cohabitation after knowledge of the act, procurement or connivance by encouraging or making it possible or entrapping the spouse. Where this is shown, no divorce will be granted on this ground. The petitioning spouse must be innocent of wrongdoing. Impotence is another defense to this ground. Finally, as stated above, there is a five-year statute of limitations such that the act must have occurred within five years of the petition for divorce.

Ordinarily, proof of fault grounds requires only a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means sufficient proof to “tip the scale” in your favor. Proof of add charges upon the basis that the proof tendered is insufficient as a matter of law. Adultery is different. It requires a higher standard of proof. In fact, the proof required of adultery is the highest standard in civil law and is known as “clear and convincing” evidence.

Q: Can we get a divorce after six months' separation if we have kids?

No. You must be separated for a year or more if there are any minor children born or adopted in the marriage. That being said, parties can file for divorce without waiting if there are fault ground.

Q: Do I have to have a property settlement?
In order to get a no-fault divorce upon the ground of six months’ separation, you must have a signed, written property settlement. It can be a simple written statement that each of you retains the property in your respective possession and/or that there is no property acquired during the marriage. It should be signed and dated by both parties. If you do not have a signed, dated written property settlement agreement, you will have to be separated for a full year before filing for a no-fault divorce. (This does not mean that you cannot file for divorce on fault grounds if you can prove fault.)

If you have been separated for more than one year, it is not necessary to have a written property settlement. However, having settled issues like property, support, and custody can make the divorce faster and easier to obtain, provided no one is in violation of the terms of the settlement.

Q: Is a property settlement agreement a good idea?
It can be a way of taking control and arriving at a resolution that works uniquely well for your family. By law, spouses may agree between themselves upon resolution of issues, rights, duties, and obligations arising out of the marriage and separation. Agreements may include such matters as the division of property, division of debt, spousal support, or payment of attorney’s fees for separation and divorce. Provision may also be made for anticipated future needs, such as children’s college expenses, provision of life insurance. There can be a provision for mandatory mediation of disputes before going to court. Provisions dealing with spousal support are binding upon the parties and may not be altered by the court, absent legal basis to rescind or modify the contract. The contract may provide for the modification of spousal support, but if it does not provide for the modification of spousal support, then support may not be modified absent a legal basis to rescind the contract.

The possibilities for contract terms are more varied and flexible than the remedies available from the court. You can do by agreement things that the court in dividing marital property and adjudicating your rights may not be able to do.

Q: What other relief can I get in a divorce?
In filing for divorce, you may also request a determination of custody, child support, visitation rights, equitable property division, equitable division of marital debt, temporary spousal support, lump sum spousal support, permanent spousal support, rehabilitative spousal support and/or ratification of your separation agreement, if any. Relief may also include a judgment for money owing or judgment for damages for civil wrongs or a request for enforcement of a contractual provision in the property settlement.
Q: What is a separation agreement?
A separation agreement or property settlement agreement — also called a stipulation agreement — is a contract between a husband and wife in which rights, duties, and responsibilities arising out of the marital relationship are settled and compromised between the parties. These types of agreements are specifically authorized under Virginia law. Matters addressed in such agreements may include the date of separation, property division, debt division, spousal support, health insurance and expenses, auto insurance, life insurance, litigation costs, divorce costs, child custody, visitation and support, payment of educational expenses, and more.
Q: Why consider a separation agreement?
Separation agreements allow the parties to decide the outcome and in so doing to exercise autonomy and self-determination, rather than allowing the court to make decisions for them. Separation agreements allow the parties to negotiate a compromise on the issues that they can live with. Absent agreement of the parties, disputes must be litigated. This makes the divorce proceedings more complex, more lengthy, and more expensive. Neither party may be happy with the outcome of the litigation. Litigation also takes an emotional toll on the parties. This is especially true if there are children. Finally, parties have more flexibility in designing agreements to suit themselves than the courts have in fashioning a remedy for the couple. Jurisdiction ancillary to divorce is limited to what is stated in the statutes.
Q: Do we have to have an agreement? Can we just separate?
No, you do not have to have an agreement. Yes, you can separate without an agreement. Not having an agreement does not make you “illegally” separated. Your situation may be a simple one with little to haggle over. However, there are risks in separating without having a written signed agreement. These risks include legal risks (especially for the spouse moving away from the marital home) and legal consequences to separating without having reached an agreement on the issues. The fact of separation itself changes the status quo and may shift the balance of power or leverage in the negotiation of the issues which remain to be resolved. Finally, it should be remembered that the separation agreement also serves a valid function of representing your legal status as separated. If there is no agreement and no divorce, there is no document to show that you are in fact separated from your spouse.

However, if you intend to pursue a no-fault divorce after six months’ separation, instead of waiting a full year, you will need a signed written agreement. Without such an agreement, you must wait a full year before filing for divorce.

Q: What if we have a prenup? Do we still need to have a separation agreement?
Yes. Because the prenup or premarital agreement was signed before the marriage, it is not sufficient to serve as a basis for the six-month no-fault divorce. You must sign another agreement reflecting your intent to remain apart permanently. The separation agreement may ratify and reaffirm the terms in your original agreement. In fact, you should be careful not to inadvertently change those terms in signing a separation agreement, unless you intend to change them. If you have a prenup in place and are considering a separation, you should consult your attorney for advice before you sign anything else.

If you do not want to sign another agreement, you do not have to; it just means you will have to wait a full year before filing for divorce.

Q: What if we can't agree on our own? Is there another alternative?
Yes, you can use mediation or arbitration. Mediation is a process by which a trained mediator facilitates the couple in defining and resolving the issues. The trained, experienced mediator helps the couple to find a middle ground and compromise that each can live with. Arbitration is a more formal process by which the couple agrees to submit the dispute to a third party or even a panel of third parties who render a binding decision.
Q: Does having a separation agreement make it easier to get a divorce?
Yes. Generally, such agreements leave nothing to be decided by a court, except the matter of the divorce itself. Even if the agreement does not settle all the issues, it will still simplify the divorce by eliminating those issues which have been resolved. If there are no minor children, having a written agreement settling property, debt, and support issues, shortens the separation period for no-fault divorce from one year to six months. If you do not want a divorce, you should think long and hard before you sign a separation agreement, because it is usually the first step down the road to divorce. On the other hand, even if you do not want a divorce, there may be cogent reasons to sign an agreement. You should seek advice from an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you through the decisions you are facing.
Q: What if we decide to reconcile?
You may reconcile your marriage at any time, prior to entry of a final decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony. However, you may want legal advice as to how to rescind the separation agreement. Some separation agreements survive reconciliation, and some do not. It may also be prudent to consider counseling to deal with the problems that caused or lead to the separation because unless the problem is resolved, it will surface again. Finally, it may also be wise to consider a written “reconciliation agreement.” It is prudent to talk to your lawyer before resuming cohabitation if you have gone to the trouble and expense of separating and having a separation agreement drawn up.
Q: How do we go about getting an agreement?
First, you need to identify and determine the issues to be resolved. You should seek legal advice early; your attorney can assist you in identifying and determining the issues to be included in the agreement. Among the areas to consider for inclusion are:

  • Spousal support
  • Bank accounts
  • Debt repayment
  • Disposition of the marital home
  • Disposition of timeshares
  • Disposition of burial plots
  • Disposition of vacation home
  • Disposition of vehicles
  • Division of thrift savings
  • Division of military retired pay
  • Pension/retirement benefits
  • Death benefits
  • Life insurance
  • Child custody/visitation and support
  • Health insurance coverage for the child(ren) (and/or dependent spouse)
  • Payment of college or trade school expenses for the child(ren).

There could be other issues depending upon your circumstances. Once you have identified potential issues, set a meeting with your spouse. Try to reach an agreement on the issues. As you agree, write down the terms of your agreement. If possible, sign it and have your spouse sign it. Call your attorney for an appointment to review the terms you have agreed upon with your spouse and to discuss whether there are further matters you need to discuss with your spouse. If appropriate, your attorney can take your notes and memorandum of agreement signed by you and your spouse and draft a more formal separation agreement.

Q: Do you have to have an attorney draw up the agreement?
No, not necessarily. You can draw up your own contract, provided you know what to say and how to say it. Of course, you can perform surgery on yourself, too, but wisdom lies in knowing the difference between removing a splinter from your finger and removing cataracts from your eyes. The safest thing to do is to at least talk to a lawyer before you do something that will bind you for the rest of your life.
Q: What is a legal separation?
A legal separation is a proceeding allowed in some states whereby a court orders the parties to live apart without divorcing. There is no proceeding in Virginia by that name. The term “legally separated” may mean one of two things in Virginia; either the parties have a formal written separation agreement or they have a bed and board divorce decree. The divorce from bed and board does not fully dissolve the marriage bond.
If you have any questions about divorce law or would like to talk to Perry Law Group about separating or getting a divorce, contact us & give us a call at 804-520-7060.
Perry Law Group in Cononial Heights, VA

Perry Law Group
3660 Boulevard Suite E,
Colonial Heights, VA 23834

Phone: 804-520-7060

Business Hours:
Monday - Thursday 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Friday 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Saturday - Sunday Closed