How were divorces granted in Virginia before the Civil War?
The Virginia General Assembly reserved for itself, rather than to its courts, the power to award people divorces. The legislature, however, was no rubber stamp. Professor Lawrence M. Friedman describes one representative case:
. . . Olympia Meredith was married to a scoundrel with the marvelous name of Moody Blood. She was left wtih two children (Fleming Blood and Friendless Blood) when Moody, who had abused her, was sent to jail for receiving stolen property. She asked the legislation in 1841 for a divorce. The answer was no. Two years later, she tried again. Again, she was turned down. In Virginia, overall, only one petitioner out of three succeeded in getting a divorce. Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law (Simon & Schuster – 3rd. Edition – 2005) at 143 (citing Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., The Great Catastrophe of My Life: Divorce in the Old Dominion (University of North Carolina Press 2002)).