One of the most common questions I get is, “Can we be separated and living in the same house?” The short answer is yes, but it’s tricky.
For whatever reason, you may not be quite ready to physically separate from your husband, even though you’re headed towards divorce. The most common reasons I hear all have to do with money, and it’s true that it’s quite expensive to maintain two separate residences, especially if the divorce has come as a shock to one or the other of the parties. Another reason I hear has to do with the children. It’s upsetting and confusing for children when one parent moves out and, even though it’s inevitable, some parents want to take some time trying to make the transition as easy on the children as possible. You may have another reason entirely, and that’s totally fine. I just want to make sure you understand the risk involved before you commit yourself to living separate and apart in the same house.
In Virginia, the law doesn’t specifically require that husband and wife MUST live in separate residences in order to prove to the judge that they’ve been separated. Some judges do choose to read the statute that way, though, and you should know that going in. A lot depends on the mindset of the judge. Some just really don’t believe that it’s possible to be truly separated in the same home. I think it’s probably pretty fair to say that many judges have come to accept that this has become a necessary stepping stone for some couples, but I didn’t survey any judges before I wrote this article, either. (I’m basing this statement off of my own experience.)
The law DOES specifically require that husband and wife live separate and apart, without cohabitation and without interruption, for the statutory period. That means that you have to represent yourself as a separated couple when you’re out in public (it’s not okay to play happy couple at church or at the kid’s school events), and you have to behave as though you’re separated in the home as well (no cooking, cleaning, or doing each other’s laundry). Is it possible to live truly separately when you’re living in the same physical space? Sure. I’ve seen it. But, at the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s easy! When you’re living in the same place as your husband, it’s easy to fall into old, familiar patterns, especially if the divorce isn’t particularly contentious. It’s important to be extra careful if you’re planning on living together during your separation.
For more information, request a free copy of our book, “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce.” In it, you’ll find an awesome, super comprehensive checklist of what every woman should know before she attempts an in-home separation. I think it’ll help you a lot! Good luck!