Can we really live separate and apart in the same home before our divorce?

If you’re really careful, it may be possible to live separate and apart in the same home before getting divorced in Virginia. The statute only provides that the two of you live separate and apart, without cohabitation and without interruption, for a period of one year (or six months if you don’t have any minor children)—it doesn’t say anything about whether you can share physical space during that time.

Obviously, you’d want to live in separate bedrooms, but that’s really only part of what the court is looking at when determining whether you have lived sufficiently separately to satisfy the statute. Mostly, the court is trying to determine whether you have been cohabitating.

You are cohabitating when you live together as husband and wife. It’s about how you behave in public AND how you behave privately. In public, you shouldn’t be playing the happy couple for the sake of your friends. Even though it feels like it’s probably easier, you’ll have to air your dirty laundry to a certain extent. You should explain to friends and family that you’re still married but separated, and that means that you really can’t attend functions together the way you would have before. You can both go to your daughter’s soccer game, for example, but you should ride and sit separately.

Privately, you should live the way you would if you actually lived in separate spaces. You should do your own grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. If possible, you should use your own computers and live in different parts of the home. Remember that each of these things is only a part of a greater puzzle. Just because you washed a sinkful of his dishes once doesn’t mean that this will completely defeat your argument that you lived separate and apart for the year, though you definitely shouldn’t make a habit of it.

The judge will ask you and your witness whether you lived separately during your year, so you’ll want to make sure that you can clearly and firmly tell him yes.

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