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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 as a married couple, 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, establishing a separation date is important for several reasons. After all, the separation date:

  • Determines when you can file for divorce in no-fault cases.
  • Affects how your financial accounts and assets will be divided 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 day 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.

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 states the exact day you separated with no intention to reconcile.

A separation agreement establishes how issues like custody, child support, spousal support, and the marital home will be addressed. It can be a temporary arrangement until a judge can rule on these issues, or it can settle all issues between you. The more issues you and your ex are able to agree upon, the easier (and less expensive) your divorce will be. 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 intent that the separation be permanent, 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). It’s important to note that only one spouse has to have the intention that the separation be permanent. You don’t need agreement to be separated.

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
  • You no longer hold yourselves out as married to friends, family, etc.

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. If you are separated under the same roof and want to make sure the separation date is clear, you might want to memorialize it in writing, such as in an email to your spouse stating that you are separated and it’s your intent to remain separated permanently.

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) 443-9360 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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