Legal Separation in Virginia

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There is no such thing as a legal separation in Virginia. Instead, a voluntary separation or limited divorce is granted on four grounds as defined by the statute of Virginia. These four grounds for seeking a limited divorce are: act of cruelty resulting to bodily harm, physical abuse, desertion and abandonment.

Limited divorce is also known as separate maintenance or divorce from bed and board (divorce a mensa et thoro). Limited divorce is quite similar to legal separation in other states. Virginia is a state which does not recognize any documentation for the couple being legally separated.

No-fault divorce can be granted in Virginia on only one ground and that is the couple should be living apart for at least one year before filing the petition for separate maintenance. This period can be reduced to six months if the minor children are not involved and the couple has reached a Separation Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement which deals with all the issues related such as payment of alimony, debts, division of property, child custody and support and investment plans.

After the limited divorce is granted, the couple cannot remarry as they remain still married and the marital ties are not severed. In Virginia a case for legal separation can be converted to a case for divorce even if it is in process which cannot be done in other states. You need to file another lawsuit. But in Virginia, you can get a divorce in the same lawsuit.

Signing a separation agreement expedites the legal process and all the issues related to living separately are addressed as quickly as possible. However, a couple needs to make sure that they are not living together as as couple. If found out that they are living in the same house, the separation agreement is considered null and void.

If for some reason, you are not willing to move out of your residence, be it financial or for children, you can go for an in-home separation. However, this is a recipe for disaster if you have a resentment or bitterness for your partner. Some things you need to consider while opting for an in-home separation. These things are as follows:

  • Sexual Contact For obtaining a legal separation in Virginia, you need to assure the court that you are absolutely abstaining from any sexual contact as well as romantic gestures for each other. So, it is better to avoid any contact and keeping it to the formal level.
  • Separate Living Make arrangements for separate beds as well as bedrooms. Sleeping on different beds but in the same room really does not make any sense. You will be fooling yourself and end up having a fling with your own partner.
  • Family and Friends Inform your family as well as friends about the relationship status. They will turn out to be of immense help to start your life afresh.
  • Sharing No sharing food or shopping for one another. Avoid doing any favors to each other. Not even little things such as refilling the cereal that your wife has for breakfast or attending phone calls or taking messages for each other.
  • Chores Keep the chores strictly separate. Do not cook for each other. Cook and eat separately. Treat it as if you are staying with a roommate.
  • Socializing Avoid socializing as the husband and wife; don't even the attend the parents meetings or the office annual balls as companions. Arrive and leave separately.
Process of filing the separation papers:
  • Buy separation papers from the county courthouse.
  • Make a list of marital as well as individual assets and debts.
  • Fill the forms with an assistance from a lawyer.
  • Attach the list of assets as well as debts to the forms.
  • File it in the county courthouse.
After the filing, the court will send a summons to your spouse. However, this may take several days and the court will notify you when you have to attend the hearing.

Separation Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement:

The separation agreement or the property settlement agreement is supposed to be signed by both the parties in presence of the lawyers. This is not recognized by the statute of Virginia but it is always a good idea to keep a record of the agreements you have reached with your spouse. Read the document carefully before you sign it. You can ask your lawyer to review it for you if you get confused by all the legal terms.

The agreement related to childcare, alimony or spousal support, child custody and visitation, property division, payment of child support, decision about the place of residence, decision of the temporary accommodation arrangements for either spouse whether it is in-home separation or otherwise etc. needs to be carefully drafted in this agreement. Don't forget to mention every little detail in the agreement as if it is not written, it is not an obligation.

Go for limited divorce or legal separation in Virginia only if you are absolutely sure that you are heading for a divorce.

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