Together, but Separate: How to live separate and apart in the same home before divorce
Many judges today recognize the necessity for some couples to live separately in the same home. The statute only provides that the parties have to live "separate and apart without interruption and without cohabitation" for a period of one year (or six months if there are no minor children)–there's no requirement that the separation must be in completely different homes in order to qualify. In order to actually be "separate and apart," you'll have to really make a commitment to living separately from your husband.
It can be a difficult thing to do. Without removing one or both of you from the marital home, it can be easy to fall into your old patterns. Living separate would require you to do everything separate, just like you would if you lived in a completely different place. This includes things like sleeping in separate bedrooms, shopping for your own food, preparing your own meals, doing your own laundry, and keeping up with your own cleaning. You probably already had a routine for handling these things during your marriage, and it can be hard not to fall back into those old patterns. You'll have to make those changes in your home.
Proving that you've lived separately is also about cohabitation, and cohabitation is about the way you've holding yourself out in the community. It's about looking like, acting like, and presenting yourself like a couple. If others in the community have the impression that you and your husband are married, then you're not living separately enough to satisfy a judge.
In addition to the changes you've made in the home, you'll have to behave differently outside of the home as well. You should take of your wedding rings, stop attending church or other functions together, and even make sure your close friends and family know that you have separated.
For more information on how to make sure you're doing everything right to be separate in the same home, click here. (link)
Of course, opting to live separately in the same home is risky, because some judges just don't like it. They don't believe that you can satisfy the requirements of living separate and apart, as required by the statute, when you live together. That's a risk you take if you choose to move forward with separating in the same home. If the judge doesn't find that your separation has been genuine, he will ask that you live separately for a year in separate residences and try again.
We offer a free book, "What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce," which also provides additional information on living together (but separate) in the same home before divorce. To get your free copy, click here!