To be separated means one of the parties has left the marriage with the intent not to return. Many times, we are asked "Can we be separated while living in the same house?" – the short answer for Virginia residents is NO. Normally, when two people separate, it’s only natural that they start to live separately, too. Still, these days, because of the bad economy and difficult personal finances, sometimes people are forced to try living separately in the same house.
What you need to know about living separate under the same roof
The law requires you to live “separate and apart” from your husband for a certain amount of time to qualify for a divorce based on grounds of separation. There’s nothing in the law that specifically REQUIRES that you live in completely separate homes during that time, but it can be really hard to prove to the judge that you’ve been living separately. As you and I and the judge all know, it can be difficult not avoid falling into comfortable patterns if there’s no physical separation during this time.
Even if you find that separation in the same home is a financial necessity for you, you should make sure that you and your husband are living as separately as you would be if you had separate homes. Think of all the things you would have to do on your own if your husband weren’t living with you, and make sure that you take care of things on your own and without expecting a contribution from him. You should be making your own dinner and washing your own dishes. You should be changing your own oil in your car (or going to Jiffy Lube to have it done), and cutting your own grass.
Virginia courts do not favor "living in the same residence" separations
However, these days, many judges HAVE recognized the necessity of the situation. Still, you’ll have to make sure that your separation follows the guidelines listed below. Otherwise, you risk going to court and having the judge tell you that you haven’t been separate. That would be terrible, because then you’d have to start your one year all over again—adding additional time and expense to your divorce.
Follow this checklist to ensure your divorce is granted:
- Use separate bedrooms.
- Do not engage in romantic or sexual intimacy.
- Each spouse should shop for his or her own food, prepare his or her own meals; should not shop for the other, including clothing and other necessities.
- Do not use the other spouse's food or other purchases.
- Do not eat meals together (exceptions: holidays or children's birthdays).
- Each spouse should be responsible for caring for his or her own space within the home.
- Each spouse should do his or her own laundry.
- Use a separate and secure computer and be VERY careful of how you use that computer.
- Use a separate and secure telephone/cell phone for personal and business calls.
- Establish separate checking accounts.
- Cease socializing together, e.g., do not attend parties, movies, theater, etc. together.
- Do not attend church together.
- When there are minor children, interact as parents only where strictly necessary from the child's perspective and their wellbeing, e.g., it would be acceptable for the parents to go together to a meeting with a school official relative to problems confronting a particular child, but less appropriate for the parents to ride together and sit together at a child's school play or soccer game.
- Cease gift giving between spouses for such occasions as birthdays, Christmas, anniversary, Valentine's Day, etc.
- Make known to close associates, relatives, etc. that you are not living as man and wife, but are separated within the residence as part of getting divorced in Virginia.
- Have an objective third party come to the home from time to time to personally observe the two spouses separate and distinct living quarters (bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.).
- Utilize separate entrances to the residence if feasible.
- Be prepared to explain reasons for living separately under the same roof, e.g., financial considerations; unavailability of separate residence; easing children transition to parental separation, etc.
- Do not role play as the happy couple in front of family and friends.
There are very specific rules governing divorce in Virginia, especially if you are separated and live in the same house. At Hofheimer Family Law Firm we are committed to providing you with the experience and compassion you deserve and the successful results you need to move on with your life. Request a FREE copy of our divorce guide for women in Virginia, or reserve your seat at our monthly divorce seminar – 757-425-5200.