Legal separation and divorce are similar in that they work to legally end a marital agreement. While divorce is a permanent end to this agreement, separation is technically temporary (although a separation has no set time limit).
No-Fault Divorce Cases and Separation
In Virginia, there is no formal procedure for gaining legal separation status if the couple is not assigning fault for the separation.
However, the law will allow for a no-fault separation if the couple has been separated:
- for 1 year;
- or 6 months with an established separation agreement and there are no minor children involved.
The best way to illustrate that a couple has been separated for the allotted amount of time is to establish a date in which both parties decided and agreed upon the dissolution of marriage. This can be something as simple as a text message or email. If the conversation happened verbally, both parties will need to sign a document with the agreed-upon date as the subject. An attorney with separation and divorce experience can help draft such a document.
Fault-Based Divorce Cases and Separation
A couple can choose from a few different fault-based reasons when separating or divorcing.
The most common reasons include:
- marital desertion
- emotional abuse
- physical abuse
Virginia courts allow the party filing to either seek a divorce from bed & board or a divorce from the matrimonial bond. If they seek a divorce from bed & board, neither party can remarry or engage in a legal sexual relationship with people outside the marriage. If the party is seeking divorce from the bonds of matrimony, a traditional final divorce can be granted.
Either party can file a motion for ‘pendente lite’ relief or temporary relief while waiting for the final outcome of the case.
Pendente lite relief can be:
- temporary child custody and/or visitation
- temporary support (child or spousal)
- absolute use of the marital residence
- aid with marital debts
- injunctions to prevent use of marital assets
Pendente lite relief is generally kept in place until the final trial, which is usually at least 1 year after the date of separation. If 1 year has passed since the date of separation by the time the final hearing comes around, the court will almost always grant an absolute divorce as opposed to bed & board.
Skilled Divorce & Separation Lawyers
Whether you are seeking a no-fault or fault-based divorce/separation, our attorneys are here for you. We have extensive knowledge in all areas of divorce and can help you construct a solid separation agreement for your temporary or permanent dissolution of marriage.