Legal Separation is Easy in Virginia

There is one part of the divorce process that is really, really ridiculously easy. It doesn’t require you to spend a lot of money, or file official-looking paperwork in your local circuit court, and it doesn’t even require any additional worrying. What is this mysterious and wonderful piece of the puzzle, you ask?

It’s separation.

In some states, people seeking a divorce have to go to court and physically file for a legal separation. It’s not that way in Virginia. Here, you are separated when at least one of you decides to end the marriage and then stop cohabitating. It’s really pretty easy; so long as you have formed the intent to separate in your mind and then you stop living together as husband and wife, you’re separated legally.

The second part of the equation, cohabitation, is a little more difficult. Most people tend to think about cohabitation as sex, and it’s really a lot more complicated than that. For sure, people who are separated probably ought not be having sex with each other, but sex is only one small part of the equation. After all, there are a certain number of married couples who never have sex.

Cohabitation is about the way you behave together in your home, and the way you behave outside of the home. At all times, you must behave as though you are separated. That means that you should have separate bedrooms, do your own laundry and prepare your own meals in the home, and it also means that you stop going to church together and socializing together outside of the home. You can’t play the happy couple in public and be separated at home and expect the judge to find that you’ve really been living separate and apart.

As a rule of thumb, it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself whether you’d be doing what you’re doing if the two of you were divorced and living in separate homes. If you probably wouldn’t, then you shouldn’t do it—and that should help you prove to the judge, at the end of your year of separation, that you and your husband really have been separated.

For more information on separation and living together under the same roof, see my blogs Divorce Sex: Is Everyone Doing it?, and The Truth About In-Home Separation.

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