Separation and Divorce
As of the common societal understanding, separation and divorce are seen as synonymous with one another, where a married couple drives on a decision to part their ways and end their matrimonial bond. However, in the light of legal terms, the notion of legal separation refers to a situation where the concerned court presents a legal directive on enabling a married couple to separate their ways, without ending their marriage. Within this context, the court further mandates the respective rights and duties of both the individuals during their period of separation. This legal separation may take on either one of the track, where the couples may decide to go for a trial separation in order to drive on a decision regarding the fate of their marriage, while living separately; or they may decide to go for a permanent separation so as to maintain their legal contract of marriage, without having to live with one another. This form of permanent separation is usually to avoid any social difficulties and to protect other concerned family members from the impact of this separation. On the other hand, divorce reflects a final legal decision to end the marriage and to liberate oneself from the rights and duties towards the other individual. As per the litigations presented by Virginia, individuals can apply for a “no-fault divorce” where they are not required to present any fault of their spouse in order to file for a divorce. Nevertheless, Virginia is still among one of those certain states who still allow “fault divorces”, requiring one spouse to present any fault of the other partner in order to justify the request for divorce. According to the Code of Virginia § 20-91, which describes the grounds for divorce from bond of matrimony, either of the spouse may file for an absolute divorce in case of;
- Adultery, outside the contract of marriage
- Imposition of felony conviction on either of spouse,
- Act of cruelty or physical violence,
- Willful separation of the couple for six months without biological or adopted children, or for a year with children.
Co-Parenting Laws in Virginia
The second most significant aspect of family laws concerns that of co-parenting, where a couple who has been separated or divorced, drives on a decision to raise their child together by sharing equal legal and physical custody of the child. The decision of co-parenting is rare, since most of the divorced or separated couples do not agree to allow each other to have any right on the child as they lose their trust on one another. However, most of the couples choose to take on the approach of co-parenting so as to protect their child from any negative impact of their separation or divorce, and to provide their child with uninterrupted love and support from both the parents. As per VA code §20-124.1, divorced or separated parents have the right to agree on joint custody of the child, where they may file for joint physical custody or for joint legal custody, or for both. The joint legal custody allows the parents to have equal authority and responsibility over the child, irrespective of where the child lives. On the other hand, the joint physical custody enables the parents to keep the child with them equally, by agreeing on alternating periods.