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What is Legal Separation?

In Virginia, you can obtain a no-fault divorce if you have been separated for a certain period of time – one year if you have children, or six months if you have no children and have a written agreement settling all property issues. So, what does it mean to be separated?

Unlike some other states, Virginia doesn’t have a formal status procedure to establish legal separation. Rather, separation is when you and your spouse live “separate and apart” and at least one of you intends the separation to be permanent.

Are you unsure how legal separation works in Virginia? Consult with Graham Law Firm, PLLC before you begin the separation process so you fully understand your rights and responsibilities. Dial (703) 443-9360 to speak with our Virginia divorce attorneys today.

Legal Separation in Virginia: No-Fault Divorce

Sometimes, marriages fall apart with no particular fault resting on either party. You can obtain a no-fault divorce in Virginia if you live separately from your spouse for one year or live separately from your spouse for six months, have a separation agreement in place, and have no minor children.

However, since Virginia has no formal procedure for obtaining legal separation status in no-fault cases, you might wonder how to establish that you’ve been separated from your spouse for the requisite time.

The clearest way to establish a date of separation is to enter into a “separation agreement” with your spouse. Both parties sign and date a document stating that you want to permanently end the marriage.

The Importance of Separation Dates in Fault Divorce

Although you don’t need any particular length of time of separation to file for a fault-based divorce (one that is on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, etc.), it is still important to establish a date of separation. This is true because the court only has the authority to divide assets that are “marital,” or acquired during the marriage. Assets that you acquired post-separation may therefore be considered separate property and not divided up as part of the divorce. Further, divorces that are filed on fault grounds are sometimes changed to no-fault divorces later in the process, when feelings cool off and the parties reach agreement on some issues. If that happens, it will be important to know when your one-year or six-month separation date has passed. If you are pursuing a fault divorce, keep track of when you separated and consider memorializing it in writing.

Separate Maintenance in Virginia

If fault exists in your separation case, but you don’t want a divorce for moral or religious reasons, “separate maintenance” may be an effective route. This Virginia statute gives the court power to rule on child/spousal support and visitation rights. However, separate maintenance doesn’t enable the court to divide property. Personal advice from Graham Law Firm, PLLC can help you decide if separate maintenance is the right option for you.

If you need to create a separation agreement in Virginia, contact the family law attorneys at Graham Law Firm, PLLC today. Reach out to us online or dial (703) 443-9360.

Create a Separation Agreement with a Virginia Divorce Attorney

An attorney from Graham Law Firm, PLLC can help you take all the right steps to establish a separation agreement in the state of Virginia. The document remains legally binding until you file for a no-fault divorce six months or one year from now, at which time the court will resolve any outstanding issues.

Creating a separation agreement with your spouse helps your children transition into two homes. Establishing this mutually acceptable agreement outside court also saves you a considerable amount of time and money. Finally, the agreement establishes a firm date of separation so you can pursue divorce immediately once the requisite time has passed.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Northern Virginia

At Graham Law Firm, PLLC, we use our 23 years of experience to navigate complicated divorce, adoption, and family law cases throughout the state of Virginia. If you have a question regarding legal separation, reach out to us today.

To speak with an experienced divorce lawyer in Arlington, Fairfax, or the surrounding areas, contact Graham Law Firm, PLLC online or call (703) 443-9360.

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