In Virginia, you’re either married or you’re divorced. The courts don’t recognize a legal separation in Virginia, so there is no legal middle ground as in other states. If you choose to dissolve your marital relationship, you must file a divorce complaint against your spouse. Your complaint must cite grounds as to why you deserve a divorce. When you go before the court, you must present evidence to prove your allegations. You remain legally married until the court decides that you and your spouse are no longer a couple.
Under Virginia’s Domestic Relations Code, Title 20, Chapter 6, §20-91, you have some flexibility in choosing how you wish to proceed. You can prove that your spouse committed adultery or cruelty, or you can cite some other traditional grounds. You may also obtain a divorce after a one-year separation in Virginia. It’s a less stressful, no-fault process that allows you to meet the state’s divorce requirements without having to air your personal grievances in public.
Preparing For a One-Year Separation in Virginia
When you cite a one-year separation as your reason for divorce, you must show evidence in court as you would with any other grounds. To meet the state’s divorce requirements, you must prove that you and your spouse complied with the state’s divorce code. Your actions must help you establish two critical facts:
- You notified your spouse of your intent to divorce and you documented a date.
- You “…have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year…” If you have no children together, the courts may grant your divorce after a 6-month separation.
Notifying Your Spouse of Your Intent to Divorce
When you plan to divorce by citing a one-year separation, you must make your intentions clear to your spouse. If you’re comfortable having that discussion face-to-face, you can give your notice in an informal conversation. Notice is an important element of your divorce process. When you’re done with your discussion, your spouse should understand your intent to end your marriage and the date by which you plan to end it.
You must eventually produce evidence that verifies the date you placed your spouse on notice of your intent to separate and divorce. It’s a good idea to create a written document that reviews the key elements of your conversation. Consider sending your spouse an email or generate some other written document that’s externally dated and verifiable by a trustworthy source.
Meeting The Terms Of Your One-Year Separation In Virginia
A one-year separation is usually manageable when you have few joint financial and familial obligations. One spouse moves out, establishes new living arrangements, and the details fall into place over time. When you have children, a home, a business, or other long-term responsibilities to consider, establishing separate residences is often a challenge. A sudden separation doesn’t just change your address, it drastically alters your life and your relationship with your children.
A Virginia Appeals Court ruling made it easier for couples to maintain their lifestyle while remaining technically separated. The court agreed with the concept of in-home separations. It’s a creative alternative for couples who plan to divorce but need more time to reorganize their lives.
In-Home Separation in Virginia
A separation in Virginia doesn’t have to immediately disrupt your life. Separating couples have the option to remain in the same home while still building a case for a one-year separation. An in-home separation in Virginia isn’t a continuation of life as usual. The couple must genuinely separate in every traditional way. If you choose to establish an in-home separation, you must establish ground rules that will allow you to comply with statutory separation guidelines.
You Must Live Like a Separated Couple
When you file for divorce citing a one-year separation, you must live your life as a separated couple. If you’re working through an in-house separation, your behavior must match your intent. You must function as though you fully intend to divorce at the one-year deadline.
- You and your spouse should establish separate bank accounts.
- Your behavior must demonstrate that your separation is a pre-condition to end your marriage.
- You should establish an anticipated date for the termination to take place.
- You must maintain separate living quarters and cease normal marital activities, including sexual relations.
- While separated you must stop interacting as a couple in your private and public lives.
- Both of you should inform your family members, business associates, and friends of your intent to divorce.
- You should stop wearing wedding rings or any other outward signs of your marital commitment.
- You should have witnesses willing to confirm your separation with periodic visits and social interactions.
- Your witness must be willing to confirm what they know under oath.
- You must conduct all activities separately the way you would if you were actually living in separate homes. This means buying your own groceries, cooking your own food, and caring for all of your own needs.
Drafting a Separation Agreement
A written separation agreement isn’t a requirement, but it’s an efficient way to help you and your spouse move forward. It documents your intent as well as the date you expressed your intent to separate and divorce without reconciling. You can also use your agreement to address issues and expectations that will arise during the divorce process. The court must approve any child-related issues. You can still limit the court’s input by negotiating and documenting many key issues long before you file your divorce complaint.
- Asset distribution
- Disposition of jointly owned businesses
- Tax filing responsibilities
- Responsibility for debts and liabilities
- Your agreement that your divorce will be a no-fault process
- Pet custody
You must be cautious when you draft your separation agreement. The decisions you make should hold up over time. You must never agree to a provision simply to get the discussion over with. Once you and your spouse execute your agreement, it becomes an enforceable contract. If you have second thoughts about any concessions, you can’t go back and change your mind.
Contact a Virginia Divorce Lawyer
When you initiate a separation in Virginia, you should consult with an attorney to help you work through the process. Attorneys provide critical guidance throughout your separation and divorce. They use their firm’s resources to represent you and protect your legal interests.
Reach out today to schedule a free consultation.