Van Smith's Take on Virginia's Latest Divorce Legislation


The Virginia Governor’s Race

Van’s thoughts on the squabble over the Cuccinelli Divorce Bill


Looking back at the November Election


Prior to Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe going head to head in the state gubernatorial race, Cuccinelli, as a state senator, proposed a Bill in 2008 that related to divorce law.


The intent, as asserted by Cuccinelli, was to make it harder for couples with minor children to file a no-fault divorce.


Fault grounds for divorce include abandonment, adultery, cruelty, and no fault, which would require a property settlement agreement and a six-month separation without children and a 12-month separation with children.


“To be clear, there is much to admire in Ken Cuccinelli,” said Attorney Van Smith. “However, divorce is hard enough emotionally and legally as it is. Laws meddling in the personal affairs of citizens should be leveled with extreme caution and care.”


The 2008 Bill, he said, was no doubt made with good intention and with a background and fundamental belief in Christianity and Catholicism.


“But, to create a speed bump in breaking up a family, or a divorce, is not the right choice,” Smith said.


Divorce is no easy thing, he said, but still, 50 percent of the state court docket is filled with family law divorce and custody cases.


“There is a real division and break-up of the family unit that is alarming and should be addressed. But, addressing that at the divorce stage is too late,” Smith said. “The good intentions [of the Bill] are misplaced. If you have $1 would you rather spend it on keeping people out of jail or making the prison walls higher?”


So, what should be done?


“Legislatively, prevention and preventative measures, such as education and marital counseling should be considered long before we consider delays on the exit ramp in the divorce stage.”


“I hope [anyone who holds office] chooses to apply their focus and state revenue at that stage and not at trying to make the process harder,” he said.

But, that doesn’t mean McAuliffe’s attacks were justified.

“He twisted the legislation in a way that was manipulative,” Smith said. “I would urge female voters to learn to be more discriminating towards Democratic candidates who, in seeking their votes are playing to them with insincere gestures.”

To say the Bill was directed at women is not accurate. It was not based on gender; it was based on divorce in general.

“In my view, [McAuliffe’s reaction] was manipulative and misplaced as well.”

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg