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What Is A Bed And Board Divorce In Virginia?

According to the Virginia Bar Association, the commonwealth recognizes two types of divorce: divorce from bed and board (a mensa et thoro) and divorce from the bonds of matrimony (a vinculo matrimonii).

You may be familiar with the more common divorce from the bonds of matrimony, which is a full legal end to a marriage, following which the parties involved may legally marry again. The more unusual divorce from bed and board  may be described as a “partial divorce.” In Virginia, this is also known as a “qualified divorce.” A divorce from bed and board is a declaration that a married couple has chosen to live apart, but not to formally divorce one another for the time being. Couples who agree to a divorce from bed and board are considered to be legally separated, but are not allowed to legally remarry other people.

There are multiple reasons why couples may choose a divorce from bed and board rather than a divorce from the bonds of matrimony. Some couples discover that they are no longer able to live together, but do not want to divorce because of their religious beliefs. Some may want to simply “keep up appearances,” or to avoid divorce “for the sake of the children.”

Sometimes, one party chooses to leave the other, but this is not sufficient grounds to request a bed and board divorce. In Virginia, such requests may only be made when a “willful desertion or abandonment” has occurred, which the Virginia Bar Association defines as, “both the breaking off of cohabitation and an intent to desert in the mind of the offender.” Willful desertion and abandonment is ground for divorce in Virginia, per Virginia Code Section 20-91. Virginia law also allows parties involved in a divorce request a bed and board divorce and then “merge” that decree into a full divorce after one year of separation.

While all this may seem a little complicated, an experienced Virginia divorce attorney can help you with both a bed and board divorces and divorce from the bonds of matrimony. Darrell M. Harding, Attorney at Law serves clients in Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

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