Can You Live Together and Be Separated For Divorce Purposes In Virginia?
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
The answer to this question is yes you can live separate and apart for diverse purposes in Virginia while residing under the same roof. The how to make this happen it is a bit more complicated. So let me try to explain what it means and how it works.
The starting premise is that Virginia does not recognize what is commonly called as “legal separation“. In Virginia, you are either married or you were divorced. There is no in-between as there may be in other states. That does not mean you can’t be separated for the purposes of getting a divorce. It just means that there is no such thing as a legal separation in Virginia. To be separated in Virginia, the parties have to be living separate and apart. Also, at the time of the separation date at least one of the parties had to have the intention for the separation to be permanent. Now parties can separate for a “trial separation” or just to “take a break” and then decide to separate for the purpose of ending the marriage. That just means the separation date is different from the original date of physical separation.
So how do you live separate and apart under the same roof for the divorce purposes in Virginia? That’s actually an easy question to answer, however, implementing it may be a little more difficult. Let me start by giving the example that I use with most clients. If you and your spouse are functioning as roommates then that is the starting point for living separate and apart under the same roof. Think back too other parts of your life when you may have had a roommates, visits to friends with roommates or even go back to popular television or movie shows with roommates that function as roommates. When you are a roommate with someone, each person lives their own life, has their own bills, does their own cooking for the most part, does their own laundry, and shops for themselves. There are very rarely joint accounts set up. When there are joint accounts they are, perhaps, for the limited purpose of paying household bills such as rent, utilities, Internet, etc. Roommates typically do not cook each other‘s meals. They do not do each other‘s laundry. They do not do each other‘s shopping. They have separate health insurance. They do not do each other‘s normal activities of daily living such as cleaning the others room. They really do not have their names on the titles to the other vehicles for even share insurance. That is what I mean by functioning as roommates.
Living separate and apart under the same roof in Virginia, in order to get a divorce, you must follow what I call “the roommate protocols“. You will need to have separate bank accounts. When you go to functions such as birthday parties, weddings, reunions or other events that are with family, you need to avoid holding yourself out as are married. I encourage you to ride to and from the event separately. Mingle with people separately. Sit at different tables. When meeting new people or people that you have not seen in a while, do not introduce your spouse as “my wife“ or “my husband“ as that can lead to people believing that you are holding yourself out as a married couple. To be perfectly honest, your marital status is none of their business anyway especially if it is someone you’re meeting for the first time.
Now with dealing with family functions that becomes a little trickier. At family functions most people know the dynamics of your family. Most people probably know that you are separated and going through or contemplating a divorce. I still encourage you to try to follow the above rules about arriving and driving separately as well as not mingling together as a couple. Try to sit separately if it is possible. Avoid sitting together for photographs. Do not use terms such as “honey “, “sweetie “, or any other “pet names” that you may have for the other. You can still be polite and courteous; in fact I encourage you to do that. There is no need to make it awkward and weird not only for yourselves but for everyone else. Just because you are separated and living together does not mean that it has to be nasty and hostile. Quite the contrary and I encourage you to live your best life possible under the circumstances. I also suggest that you respect your spouse’s opinions as well as boundaries just like you would want yours to be respected.
One of the recommendations that we have for parties that want to live separate and apart under the same roof is to have a Separation Agreement written and signed by the couple. The reason that we do this is that there is now a paper trial of when the separation occurred. It also has other benefits and you can feel free to read this Blog post for more details. You do not have to have a Separation Agreement as we have stated in this Blog post, however, we do believe that it makes the separation while living in the same house cleaner for the Court. You can always attempt to write your own separation agreement and we give pros and cons to that in this Post.
For more information, feel free to visit our exclusive family law site for information on divorce, separation, child custody, child visitation, spousal support and child support at BrianThomasson.com.
If you have more questions or want to speak with me, you can always visit our Home page by clicking on this link to read more or to set up a free consultation with a lawyer. You can also either call or text us at 757-454-2110. We also have on our site an online consultation form. Again, our initial consultation with a lawyer about your case is free so it costs you nothing to call and ask your questions.
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