In almost every state, you must have grounds in order to file for divorce. In the olden days, it used to be that you could only get divorced for specific fault grounds, the most common being adultery.
Grounds for Divorce
These days, even if you don’t have fault-based grounds, you can still file for divorce. In Virginia, we don’t have irreconcilable differences; we have what’s called “no fault” divorce. You don’t need a reason to get divorced under these grounds, you just have to be separated for the statutory period (one year if you have minor children, and six months if you don’t).
We have fault-based grounds as well, including adultery, sodomy, buggery, desertion, abandonment, cruelty, and apprehension of bodily hurt.
Contested v. Uncontested
Depending on whether the issues in your divorce have already been handled, or whether the court will need to handle things like equitable distribution, custody, and support, your divorce will be further classified as either contested or uncontested. In a contested divorce, the court will make the ultimate decision with respect to one or all of the issues; in an uncontested divorce, on the other hand, the parties themselves agree about how all of the rights, responsibilities, and liabilities arising from their marriage will be divided.
You can have a no fault divorce that is either contested or uncontested, but a fault-based divorce is always going to be contested. In order to get divorced based on fault-based grounds, you’ll have to actually prove the fault to the court. Your husband can’t “agree” to get a divorce based on adultery; you’ll have to actually show enough evidence for the court to formally find that he committed adultery.
What’s best for me?
In almost every case, a no fault uncontested divorce will be the quickest, easiest, cheapest option. The alternative is litigation, so you can expect that this will cost more. And the problem is not only that it costs more, it’s that it doesn’t yield different results. Remember that, in a marriage, you can only divide what’s there, so you’ll automatically have less than you did before the divorce. Making good decisions early on in the process can save you a lot of expense and headache later on.