When scanning the docket of domestic relations cases these days, it is unfortunately not uncommon to find allegations of verbal and physical abuse between spouses. Stereotypically, one might assume that this kind of unfortunate behavior only involves husbands who are abusive to their wives. However, the fact of the matter is that either husbands or wives can be the victims of abuse.
For example, in the recent Fairfax County Circuit Court case of Ibrayeva v. Kublan., the trial court granted the husband a divorce a vinculo matrimonii based on the ground of cruelty as a result of the wife’s repeated physically abusive behavior toward her spouse.
In affirming the trial court’s ruling, the Virginia Court of Appeals, citing previous case law, noted that “cruelty that authorizes a divorce is anything that tends to bodily harm and thus renders cohabitation unsafe; or, as expressed in older decisions, that involves danger of life, limb or health.” Ibrayeva v. Kublan. The Court went on to hold that the trial court heard sufficient evidence, which was properly corroborated, to meet this standard and thus appropriately granted the divorce based on cruelty grounds.
In this particular case, the wife desired that the divorce be granted based on the parties having lived separate and apart for more than one year. The wife ostensibly desired this result so as to avoid any potential negative impacts on her immigration status (plus, nobody wants to be labeled an “abuser” in a court document!).
To be sure, the trial court did hear sufficient evidence that would have allowed it to grant a divorce based on a one year separation period. However, the Court of Appeals noted that “the trial judge can use his sound discretion to select the grounds upon which he will grant the divorce.” Ibraveva v. Kublan. So, when faced with the choice between granting the divorce based on cruelty and granting the divorce based on separation, the trial judge in this case chose to grant the divorce based on cruelty. The evidence presented must have been very moving and compelling!
Life Lesson: Abuse is never appropriate, irrespective of who is doing the abusing! The trial courts will take such allegations seriously and give them due consideration when determining the appropriate grounds for divorce, as well as the other rulings incident to divorce proceedings