Divorce and Separation in Virginia
Do you need a separation agreement in Virginia?
Unlike other states, you don't need any formal separation agreement to live separate and apart from your spouse.
What does it mean to live separate and apart in Virginia?
The separation date is the date you and your spouse start living separate and apart with the intention of being separated. You may still reside within the same home provided that you live in separate bedrooms and basically live as roommates. You should also stop wearing your wedding ring and no longer hold yourself out to friends and family as husband and wife.
Can you date while separated in Virginia?
While each situation is different, generally speaking, it is recommended that you do not date while still married in Virginia. Of course, that advice comes with a variety of factors to consider. To read more about what factors you should consider when deciding whether to date while separated in Virginia, read more about it here.
What is a Separation Agreement?
A Separation Agreement, otherwise known as a property settlement or marital settlement agreement, can resolve all the issues arising out of a marriage including child support, spousal support, custody, and equitable distribution of the marital property and debt.
Do you need an attorney to draft the Separation Agreement?
It is a wise and potentially cost-saving idea to have an attorney draft your separation agreement from the outset. Often times, parties try to draft their own agreements and because they are not Virginia divorce lawyers, they end up leaving out critical areas in their agreements which should have been included. As a result, an attorney will often have to get involved after an agreement has been signed to try to amend or add to the agreement. The biggest challenge when this happens is that if the parties have previously agreed to something that they shouldn't have, there is a usually an enforceable agreement that is in effect at the time the Virginia divorce lawyers get involved. A party is unlikely to be able to reverse any of the provisions that they may have agreed to. It's better to get an experienced divorce lawyer in Virginia involved before signing anything because in the end, a party won't spend money trying to fix something they shouldn't have agreed to.
What types of divorce are there in Virginia?
There are two types of of divorce in Virginia. One type is divorce from bed and board (a mensa et thoro). The other is a divorce from the bonds of matrimony (a vinculo matrimonii). Although all issues like spousal support, custody and child support, and equitable distribution of property can be resolved from a divorce from bed and board, you cannot remarry unless you obtain a divorce from the bonds of matrimony.
Who can file for a divorce in Virginia?
You or your spouse must be a resident and bonafide domiciliary in Virginia for at least six months before the divorce is filed.
A divorce action can be filed in any Circuit Court in Virginia, but is usually filed in the county or city in which you and your spouse last lived together.
When can you file for a divorce in Virginia?
This depends on if you are filing on “fault” or “no fault” grounds. If you are filing on no fault grounds you can file for divorce after you have been separated for six months provided you don't have minor children and you have a signed settlement agreement. If you have minor children, you will have to wait until you have been separated for one year regardless of if you have a signed settlement agreement or not.
If you file on fault grounds, you may file immediately in cases of adultery or if your spouse is convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than one year in prison.
The other fault grounds of cruelty, desertion or constructive desertion still require a waiting period of one year unless you seek a divorce a mensa et thoro. If you choose to do this so that you may file before the year, then you can ask the court to grant you the divorce a vinculo matrimonii once the year has passed.
What is considered marital versus separate property?
At a basic level, any assets or debts acquired from the date of marriage to the date of separation regardless of how they are titled are considered marital assets or debts. Anything acquired before or after the separation would be considered separate property unless transmuted into marital property.
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
The Plaintiff will file for the Complaint for divorce when he/she has met the statutory requirements for doing so. Then, the Complaint needs be served on the Defendant unless the Defendant signs an Acceptance and/or Waiver of Service. If the Defendant did not sign a waiver of service, the Defendant will usually file an Answer with the court. If the parties have not yet signed a Property Settlement Agreement, the court can set the case for trial to determine all the issues arising out of the case. the trial dates may not be for many months after the initial setting. However, if a Property Settlement Agreement has been signed, the Final Order of Divorce and affidavits (from the Plaintiff and a corroborating witness) can be submitted to the Court for entry. For more information read about how to file for divorce in Virginia on our blog.
How much does a divorce cost in Virginia?
It is difficult to predict how much a divorce will cost you. The costs vary widely depending on if you are able to settle your case, go to mediation, or have to go to trial. It is always going to be less costly to settle your case amicably when you can rather than spend the time, stress, and expense going to trial.
Divorce Lawyers in Virginia
At NOVA Legal Professionals, our Virginia divorce attorneys located in Fairfax and Manassas have extensive experience presenting creative solutions to settle your case as quickly and as cost-efficient as possible. We will help you determine how and when to file. We will help you figure out the pros and cons with the approach that you seek to take. We will come up with a strategy that best fits your goals with how to move forward when you are ready. Read more about how we have helped our clients here.