Sunday, February 9, 2014

Is it possible to legally separate while living in the same house as your spouse?

In Virginia, as with all states, the laws surrounding divorce are constantly evolving and adjusting.  As I have discussed in previous posts, in order to finalize a divorce, the parties must live separate and apart for a period of six months, or 1 year, depending on the circumstances.  This can be very difficult for families who are on limited income and/or have a lot of expenses. 

Slowly, the courts have started to recognize the idea of separation while living in the same house.  Whether the court finds that you have lived separate and apart, despite living in the same house, is extremely fact based, meaning there is no bright line and the courts look at each case differently. Because of this, it is very important that you consult with a lawyer for the best chances of the courts finding that you lived separate and apart for the required period of time.

Some things the Court will look at and you should be doing to ensure your legal separation are:
  • Absolute, complete sexual abstinence (one incidence can restart the clock)
  • Separate bedrooms
  • Separate bank accounts
  • Separate meals, grocery shopping, laundry, etc.  
  • No outings as a couple (including church, meals, etc.)
  • Inform family and friends of the separation 
  • Have a close family member or friend come to the home periodically to observe you and your spouse living separate and apart
  • Act as roommates, not as spouses
As I said, there is no bright line rule, so those are just some of the types of facts courts will consider when deciding whether legal separation has occurred.  If you would like a consultation or help navigating the separation and divorce process, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or