In Virginia, spouses are allowed to separate or “live apart” if they are experiencing marital conflict but are not ready or willing to divorce. Unlike other states, Virginia courts do not grant “legal separations,” but they do allow married couples to separate, provided that they “stop living as husband and wife” (or as spouses). This does not necessarily mean that the two spouses must live in two separate physical locations, though this is the most common way in which spouses separate.
The laws governing separations in Virginia are complex and differ from other states, such as Maryland and Georgia. If you and your spouse are considering a separation, DiPietro Law Group, PLLC can help ensure that you understand the full legal ramifications of doing so. Our Fairfax separation lawyers are here to answer your questions and provide you with clear and honest legal counsel.
Contact our firm today to learn more about how we can help you with your separation or divorce.
Separation Agreements in Virginia
While Virginia courts do not grant legal separations in the same way that other state courts do, married couples who wish to separate but not divorce may sign a separation agreement. This is a legally binding document that outlines the various terms of the separation.
Much like a divorce agreement, separation agreements can address various issues, such as:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of property
- Allocation of debts
Separation agreements can also be used to determine who will pay for various household expenses if you decide to continue living in the same house.
It is important to note that separation agreements are legally binding and permanent for both spouses, with some exceptions. Child custody and support arrangements can be modified after a certain period of time, and separation agreements can be voided if the two parties reunite. However, because separation agreements can be upheld indefinitely, it is important that you have a Fairfax separation attorney help you with this process. This is especially true if your spouse or your spouse’s attorney has drafted a separation agreement already that he or she wants you to sign.
Can Separation Be Used as Grounds for Divorce?
The short answer: yes. To do so, however, you must meet certain requirements set forth by Virginia law. In most cases, you and your spouse must live separately for at least one year before you may file for divorce on grounds of separation. If you don’t have children, you may be granted a divorce after six months of living separately. Other extenuating circumstances, such as adultery or desertion, may affect this timeline as well.
Separation as an Alternative to Divorce
Though uncommon, separation can be used as an indefinite alternative to divorce. Known as a “bed and board” divorce, this is usually used when two individuals do not wish to remain married but are unwilling or unable to divorce due to religious reasons. Essentially, this is a form of legal separation in which the court determines the terms of the separation because the spouses are unable to agree. In divorce from bed and board cases, the court may rule on such issues as child support and custody, spousal support, and the division of property. If you are granted a divorce from bed and board, you may ultimately convert it to an absolute divorce after one year’s time.
Contact Our Family Law Attorneys Today
While they may seem less complicated than absolute divorce, separations in Virginia can actually be quite complex. In many cases, they are legally binding and should be treated with the same level of care as a divorce. No matter your particular circumstances, it is crucial that you fully understand your legal rights and options. Our Fairfax separation lawyers can help.
Call us today to request a confidential consultation.