In Virginia, divorce may be granted on a variety of fault-based grounds which include adultery, felony conviction, willful abandonment or cruelty. Cruelty is considered as anything that causes physical or extreme emotional harm thus makes living together unsafe. In order to file a divorce based on cruelty in Virginia, sufficient and convincing evidence along with witnesses (if any) have to be brought to light in order to convince the judge that cruelty or domestic abuse exists.
Any action that involves danger to limb, life and health are considered cruelty offences by Virginia. Proof of one or more of these in court will grant the suffering party a right to file for a fault divorce based on cruelty. It is important to note that the state of Virginia claims that cruelty only needs to be endured once and not necessarily multiple times for cruelty to be considered a ground of divorce. Thus a single harming action by a spouse is enough to file for a divorce based on cruelty.
Cruelty is not just in physical harm but may take other forms as well. Angry words, abusive language and humiliation are also considered as cruelty. When constantly repeated this can result in severe emotional harm. In Virginia, spouses who have tolerated such emotional abuse may suffer from anxiety, depression, weight loss or other psychological harms are granted a divorce based on cruelty. Adultery that exposes a spouse to sexually transmitted diseases is also a cruelty act. However, rudeness, an occasional short temper, a refusal of sexual intercourse and when there is no danger of body harm are all not considered cruelty cases by the Virginian state.
In cases where divorce was granted on the grounds of cruelty, there has been physical abuse. A third party such as a police officer or friends must be able to testify to the nature and origin the abused has suffered. Evidence offered and accepted by the Virginian court of law include testimonies from a third party, pictures or hospital records which show the physical damage to one party and records of charges filed or police reports against the offending party.
When it comes to the division of martial property, assets and child custody the judge will take into account bad behaviour. This includes if one spouse abused the other spouse. It will count against the spouse in the courts assessment of how martial property should be divided. In Virginia the court will also consider fault when it comes to paying spousal support. The spouse, who is at fault in ending the marriage i.e. the abuser, might be paying more in spousal support.
If the abused is in a dangerous situation, a judge may issue a protective order to ensure a safer environment. When this protective order is in place both spouses may not continue living with each other. Contact is rare and many negotiations about division of martial property, assets and child custody are done through a third party, usually through each spouse’s attorney. In Virginia, if a minor child or children are involved in the marriage; domestic violence will play a major factor in child custody. In cases of repeated cruelty a judge might not allow the abuser next to the children.