This morning my wife alerted me to an article in Harpers Bazzar last week called “If You Are Married to a Trump Supporter, Divorce Them” by Jennifer Wright.

“Supporting Trump at this point does not indicate a difference of opinions,” my wife said quoting the author. “It indicates a difference of values.”

“The problem is,” I replied, ”my spouse voted for Trump is not grounds for divorce in DC, Maryland or Virginia.

by James J. Gross

An Italian man claimed in his divorce that his wife was possessed by the devil and could levitate.

According to an article by Jon Lockett in the Sun, the woman’s’ sister, a priest and a monk were witnesses to her floating off the ground and they also said she also threw a church pew at the alter with just one hand.

The judge granted a no-fault divorce to the pair based on one year separation.

 

 

In Algeria, we hear that a woman has filed for divorce after three months of marriage because her husband will not shave his moustache.

I guess she has never heard the old French idiom:

“Un baiser sans moustache est comme un œuf sans sel!”

(“A kiss without a moustache is like an egg without salt!”)

The Maryland General Assembly has added “Mutual Consent” as new grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland, eliminating the waiting period, if

(1) the parties do not have any minor children in common;

(2) the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all  issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property;

(3) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland rules; and

(4) both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

The new law, when signed by the Governor, will take effect October 1, 2015.

Today Facebook launches its highly anticipated IPO.  So naturally we wanted to bring you a Facebook divorce story.

Laura Weisman reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that a woman in India has filed for divorce because her husband had not updated his relationship status on Facebook.  He was still listed as “single instead of “married”.  He says he was distracted with family and business and forgot to change it.

The couple had an arranged marriage just two months ago.  The judge has ordered the couple to undergo counseling over the next six months.

Apparently, there are several cases in India where spouses in arranged marriages have asked the court to divorce them on flimsy reasons, such as who makes the tea or failure to take an in-law’s phone call.

There is no such term as “legal separation” in Virginia law.  Sometimes people may refer to themselves as legally separated after they have signed a Marital Settlement Agreement with their spouse and are waiting out the required separation period until they can file for an uncontested divorce.

However, you can obtain a limited divorce, also called a “divorce a mensa et thoro” (from bed and board) if you have grounds. The grounds for a limited divorce are different than the grounds required for a final divorce.  They are as follows:

Desertion or abandonment – no minimum duration

Cruelty – no required duration after the act of cruelty.

Note that, unlike for final divorce, there are no “no fault” limited divorce grounds in Virginia.

In Virginia, the reason for filing a limited divorce is usually to get your support or custody case into Circuit Court rather than Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court when you need a court order regarding support or custody and you do not have grounds for a final divorce.  If you think you have this situation, ask us about it.

A permanent and final divorce is called a “divorce a vinculo matrimonii” (meaning from the bonds of matrimony) in Virginia. All divorces require proof of grounds. If you are filing for divorce, you have to have grounds before you file. If you cannot prove your grounds for divorce, accusing your spouse of these grounds may be grounds for the award of legal fees to your spouse. Pending the final divorce you should not do anything to give your spouse any grounds for divorce because it can probably be used against you. In Virginia you can be living separate and apart under the same roof, but this is difficult to prove, and requires planning.
The grounds for a final divorce in Virginia are as follows:
1. Adultery
2. Felony conviction – at least one year imprisonment.
3. Cruelty – one year after the act of cruelty.
4. Desertion continuing for one year.
5. Voluntary separation – for one year without interruption or marital relations and no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. If there are no minor children and the spouses have a written separation agreement, the require period is six months. In Virginia you can be living separate and apart under the same roof during the required separation period, but this requires careful planning and can be difficult to prove.

Years ago Maryland and Virginia added no-fault divorce grounds to the traditional fault grounds.   DC has moved completely to no fault grounds.  However, even if you file on no-fault grounds, marital misconduct still comes into play in all three jurisdictions.

Alimony. In each jurisdiction, the law provides a list of factors the court must court must consider in determining alimony.  In Maryland and DC, one of the factors is circumstances surrounding the estrangement of the parties.  In Virginia, adultery can prevent a spouse from receiving alimony unless the court finds that would create a manifest injustice.

Property. In determining how marital property is to be equitably distributed, each jurisdiction has another list of factors the court must consider.  In Maryland, there is a catch all provision that includes any other factors that the court considers appropriate.  In Virginia, one factor is circumstances contributing to the dissolution of marriage.  In DC, it is circumstances contributing to the estrangement.

Custody. Marital misconduct does not necessarily make you a bad parent.  The test is best interest of the children.  But the parties think it is important that the judge know what a scoundrel the other parent is, especially if the other parent is slinging mud, too.

As a result, the parties spend 90% of their time in discovery and trial trying to prove fault.  While most of the judges I’ve talked to say it affects their decision by 10% or less.

We have been comparing answers around the Washington beltway to the question “Can I get a divorce if neither I nor my spouse has moved from the marital home?”   It is time to take a look at the District of Columbia.

D.C. Code Sec.16-904(a). provides that “a divorce from the bonds of marriage may be granted if: (1) both parties to the marriage have mutually and voluntarily lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of six months next preceding the commencement of the action;” or “(2) both parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year next preceding the commencement of the action.”

Obtaining a divorce on separation grounds without moving out of the same household is not a problem in the District of Columbia.  There are no reported cases in DC where a divorce has been denied on separation grounds because neither spouse has moved out of the joint residence.  Also there is no corroboration requirement so those difficulties are not present.  The Superior Court is the only trial court so there is no possibility of varying interpretation between different circuit courts as there can be in Maryland and Virginia.

So the answer to the question in the District of Columbia is “Yes, you can get a divorce without moving out.”

Mary nervously twisted a white handkerchief in her hands on the witness stand at her uncontested divorce hearing.

“What was the date of separation?” asked her lawyer, Ned.

“April 1, 2010,”  Mary said.

“Was the separation mutual and voluntary on the part of both of you?”

“No, he just left.  He didn’t ask me.”

“Counsel approach the bench,” the Judge ordered.

“Hmmm,” said the Judge, “mere acquiescence in what you could not prevent is not a voluntary separation.  And a separation cannot, at the moment of its occurrence, constitute both an abandonment of one party by the other and a separation by mutual agreement.”

“I think I can fix it, Judge,” Ned said, “if you’ll let me ask a few more questions.

“Go ahead,” said the Judge.

Ned looked at Mary and said, “Now you testified that the separation on April 1 began with the abandonment of your husband, right?”

“Yes, that’s right,” she said.

“And was there a time when you decided to agree to the separation?”

“Oh, yes.”

“When was that?” asked Ned.

“About two weeks after he left,” answered Mary.

The rest of the case went smoothly and the Judge granted Mary her divorce.