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Legal Separation in Virginia
Legal separation is the point between marriage and divorce. You are considered “legally separated” when a court sanctions an agreement between you and your spouse detailing each party’s rights to child custody, support, and property division while you’re still married but living apart. Domestic relations laws vary by state, so different procedures exist for granting legal separation status to couples moving toward divorce.
As a resident of Virginia, it’s important to understand that, unlike many other states, Virginia doesn’t have a formal status for legal separation when neither party is at fault for the marriage ending. However, you can still protect yourself, your children, and your assets as you and your spouse go separate ways.
Are you unsure how legal separation works in Virginia? Consult with Graham Law Firm before you begin the separation process so you fully understand your rights and responsibilities.
Legal Separation in Virginia: Fault-Based Divorce
When one spouse claims they want a divorce on the grounds of desertion, adultery, cruelty, or another fault-based reason, Virginia law allows either party to file a motion for “pendente lite” relief, which provides temporary relief as you move toward a formal divorce. In other words, it grants you legal separation status. Pendente lite relief establishes:
- Child custody and visitation rights
- Child or spousal support
- Exclusive use of the marital residence
- Contributions to shared debts
- Injunctions preventing harassment or wasting shared assets
Any temporary relief ordered by the court typically remains in place until the final divorce trial one year from the date of separation.
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
- 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 best 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 document provides the same temporary solutions as pendente lite relief, addressing property division, debt responsibilities, custody, visitation, and support.
An attorney from Graham Law Firm can help you take all the right steps to establish a separation agreement. 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.
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 can help you decide if separate maintenance is the right option for you.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer in Northern Virginia
To speak with an experienced divorce lawyer in Arlington, Fairfax, or the surrounding areas, contact Graham Law Firm online or call (703) 687-6817.