Answers to Common Questions About Divorce and Family Law in Virginia
Divorce, child custody disputes, and other legal issues that affect your family naturally leave you with a lot of questions about your rights and your options for moving forward. In our FAQ archive, our experienced divorce and family law attorneys offer easy-to-understand answers to some of the most common questions, as well as helpful tips for navigating the legal process. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, don’t hesitate to contact us in person at 877-652-1553.
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Do I have to be legally separated from my spouse before getting divorced in Virginia?
Virginia, unlike many other states, does not recognize “separation” as a legal status in a no-fault divorce. Therefore, there is no special designation that you need from the court in order to be legally separated before you seek a divorce.
You Still Need Proof That You Were Separated
In order to get a no-fault divorce in Virginia, you must either be separated from your spouse for one year or, if you have no minor children, be separated from your spouse for six months with a separation agreement in place.
Without a formal separation designation from a court, you will need to prove the date which you separated. Generally, Virginia courts consider the date of separation to be the date on which one of the spouses decided that the marriage was over and informed the other spouse of that decision. This may have been done through a conversation or in writing (typically, via email or text).
If the date of separation is in dispute, the court may consider things such as:
- Whether there is a voluntary settlement agreement that is dated and signed
- When you and your spouse began to identify yourselves as separated to family and friends
- Whether you continue to attend events or go out together
- Whether you live in the same house and, if you do, whether you share a bedroom
If there are grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty, there are legal options that are not used in a no-fault divorce case. For example, either spouse may request temporary relief from the court to resolve immediate issues of child custody, spousal support, and use of the marital home. Additionally, a spouse may file for a limited divorce—known as a divorce from bed and board. If a divorce from bed and board is granted, neither party may remarry or legally engage in sexual relations with anyone else.
Voluntary Separation Agreements
While Virginia law does not typically require separation agreements, the spouses may choose to negotiate a separation agreement that resolves issues such as child custody, child visitation, spousal support, use of marital property, and property division pending a final divorce.
If you are interested in entering a voluntary separation agreement or establishing a clear date of separation from your spouse, it is important to contact an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Our lawyers understand that the decisions you make now will significantly affect you and your family. We will always listen to your concerns, provide you with honest advice, and help you make a realistic plan to achieve your goals. Contact us today.