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Decoding Virginia’s Separation and Divorce Laws

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Not all couples that want to end their marriage want to get a divorce automatically. Instead, options like a legal separation might better coincide with their values or goals. A legal separation means a couple is essentially divorced and must decide on the same issues as they usually would; however, they are still legally married.

Legal Separation in Virginia: Fault-Based Divorce

When one spouse claims they want a divorce on the grounds of desertion, adultery, cruelty, or another fault-based reason, Virginia law allows either party to file a motion for "pendente lite" relief. This provides temporary relief as you move toward a formal divorce, or essentially a legal separation.

Legal Separation in Virginia: No-Fault Divorce

Sometimes, marriages fall apart with no particular fault. You can obtain a no-fault divorce in Virginia if you live separately from your spouse for one year or live separately from your spouse for six months, have a separation agreement in place, and have no minor children.

To establish a date of separation is to enter into a "separation agreement" with your spouse. Both parties sign and date a document stating that you want to end the marriage permanently. The form provides the same temporary solutions as pendente lite relief, addressing property division, debt responsibilities, custody, visitation, and support.

Benefits of Being Legally Separated

Being legally separated means a couple is still married but no longer live together. Some couples might choose legal separation because of religious or moral reasons or do not agree to their divorce.

However, there are other reasons to be legally separated. Married couples can enjoy certain benefits, even if they no longer wish to be together anymore. A few of these benefits include:

  • Tax Advantages: While legally separated, taxes are still filed jointly. Some couples may not want to be together anymore but would like to continue enjoying the benefits of filing a joint tax return.
  • Health Insurance: Coverage continues under a spouse's plan during a legal separation. It does not do so once the couple is divorced. This can potentially mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars in savings.
  • Time: A significant benefit of being legally separated is that it gives couples more time. Severing ties to someone can be painful, complicated, and expensive. That time can allow a couple to consider what they wish to do going forward before taking an irrevocable step - that of divorce.

Couples who legally separate will still need to sort out matters that would be settled in divorce, like child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and property division.

However, during a legal separation, there is still the opportunity to work on the issues that led to the relationship's breakdown. The physical and emotional space that a legal separation creates can allow for one to reflect on if the relationship is truly over and, if so, what the future should look like. Creating a separation agreement can be difficult, but with the help of a skilled Suffolk family law attorney, you can rest assured that your goals will be met.

Learn More About Legal Separation in Virginia

The end of a relationship is never easy, especially a marriage. However, a legal separation can be beneficial in giving a foundation for the next steps moving forward. If you would like to know more about what options you have regardless of whether you want to separate from your spouse legally or want a divorce, Bush & Taylor, P.C. is here to discuss. Our Suffolk divorce lawyers will ensure your best interests are protected no matter what you decide.

Call Bush & Taylor, P.C. at (757) 926-0078 if you would like to speak to an attorney about your divorce options.

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