A legal separation is different in Virginia than in other states. In Virginia, there is no signed, legal document that establishes that you and your spouse are separated. Instead, you become separated once you stop living together and have the intention that the separation be permanent. It is also possible to have an in-home separation where the spouses continue to live together for the well-being of the children or due to the financial difficulty of living apart. Some couples live in separate residences but do not enter into a formal divorce because they fear divorce could harm their children emotionally. Many spouses need to try out living apart before divorcing. Other spouses may stay married but separated for religious reasons. The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury will review your situation and explain what is required to establish separation from your spouse.

Divorce from “bed and board”

Although there is no court order to establish a couple’s separation, decrees can be given for a divorce from “bed and board” but only under certain grounds: cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, willful desertion or abandonment. After obtaining a divorce from bed and board, a final divorce cannot be granted until one year from the date the alleged acts first took place if there are minor children involved, or six months if there are no minor children involved.

Most references to the word separation are based on the legal status of separation rather than a divorce from bed and board.

Separation without a Marital Separation Agreement

Virginia spouses can separate without an agreement. Without a marital separation agreement, the couple will have to wait a full year before filing for divorce. Spouses can live apart or in the same house during the waiting period. The requirement of having the intent to end the marriage can be proven whether the couple lives apart or in the same residence but is much more difficult if they are living in the same residence.

Once the separation is established, a parent may seek legal custody, physical custody, visitation and child support in court. He or she does not have to wait to file these actions until the divorce complaint is filed. However, the spouses cannot obtain a division of the property until they enter into an agreement or until a divorce is filed.

Separation with a Marital Separation Agreement

Couples can enter into an agreement on some or all of the unresolved family law matters while they are separated. An agreement on all the open issues is called a Marital Separation Agreement. A Marital Separation Agreement helps to expedite the divorce.

Contact Our Northern Virginia Family Law Firm for Separation Advice

We want our clients to be fully informed. We want them to understand the legal consequences for their decisions and also the practical consequences. The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury will answer all your questions and explain all your options. Call us today at 703-271-6519 to schedule an initial phone consultation or schedule a consultation online.

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