How to Establish a Date of Separation in a Virginia Divorce

Posted on: June 25, 2018

When you legally separate from your spouse, this usually means you’re no longer living together but you haven’t gone through the formal divorce process yet. Domestic relations laws are different in each state, so it’s important to learn what rules apply to you based on where you live.

In Virginia, it’s essential to establish a date of separation if you want to protect your rights, assets, and children. After all, the separation date:

  • Determines when you can file for divorce in no-fault cases.
  • Affects the nature of your financial accounts and assets by categorizing income, debt, and purchases as post-separation property.

Marriages don’t always end abruptly; sometimes they fizzle out, making it difficult to pinpoint the precise moment when you both knew it was over. However, the sooner you declare that you’re separated, the faster you can work toward finalizing the end of your marriage. Here are your options for establishing a date of separation in a Virginia divorce.

File a Motion for “Pendente Lite” Relief

In the case of an at-fault divorce, either spouse may file a motion for “pendente lite” relief. This grants you legal separation status as you move toward filing for divorce. Pendente lite relief establishes rules for:

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child or spousal support
  • Living in the marital residence
  • Shared debt contributions
  • Preventing harassment and squandering shared assets

The temporary solutions granted by pendente lite relief last until the final divorce trial, which takes place one year after it was filed (i.e., the date of separation).

Enter into a “Separation Agreement” with Your Spouse

Unlike many other states, Virginia doesn’t have a formal status for legal separation in no-fault divorces. Therefore, the best way to establish a date of separation is to sign a separation agreement or property settlement agreement with your spouse. This unequivocally proves the exact day you separated with no intention to reconcile.

A separation agreement provides the same temporary solutions as pendente lite relief. The document, which you should create with help from an attorney, remains legally binding until your formal divorce proceedings, which take place one year from the date of separation (if you have minor children) or six months (if you don’t have children).

Announce Your Intention to Seek a Divorce After Moving Out

If one spouse moves out and states an official intent to seek a divorce, this action counts as the date of separation (as long as the spouse doesn’t routinely threaten divorce as a way to stir things up).

Announce Your Intention to Seek a Divorce While Still Living Together

Sometimes, separating spouses choose to remain under the same roof due to economic necessity or to benefit their children. You can still establish a date of separation in a Virginia divorce if:

  • One spouse vacates the marital bedroom and the couple stops sleeping together
  • One spouse notifies the other of an intention to seek a divorce

The court may consider additional factors to determine the date of separation while still living together, such as whether the couple’s friends and family know they’re separated and if they share a bathroom and closet. Such considerations may seem silly, but removing your toothbrush from your spouse’s bathroom could be crucial for establishing a defensible date of separation.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Virginia

Separating from your spouse might be a difficult, emotional decision. It’s not something you should take lightly, especially if you have children. We encourage you to work with a divorce lawyer at Graham Law Firm, PLLC to help you take all the right steps as you work toward establishing a date of separation in a Virginia divorce. We’ll provide you with the expert legal advice you need to ensure your protection during this turning point in your life.

To speak with an experienced divorce lawyer in Northern Virginia, please call Graham Law Firm at (703) 687-6817 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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