Legal Minute - Separation While Living Together

In many cases, couples want to know if they can be legally separated while living in the same house. The short answer is that yes, you can.

Although the easiest way to determine the beginning of a separation period is by marking the date when one party moves out of the marital home, the start date may be amended in certain cases.

Under Virginia state law, a couple must be separated for a full year before they can officially file for divorce, with certain exceptions applying. With that said, if you and your spouse wish to remain legally separated without one party moving out, there are several factors you must be able to demonstrate to the court to prove your separation is legal, especially if it is likely you will seek a divorce after the one-year waiting period.

It is a good idea to avoid marital relations, i.e. any sexual activity with your spouse, if you want your legal separation to stand. Sleeping in separate bedrooms is probably the easiest way to prevent this occurrence from happening. Again, make sure are comfortable with whatever sleeping arrangement you arrive at, as you may have to uphold it for one year.

More importantly, it is key that you do not present yourself as still being married in public. This means not attending family functions together, not labeling yourselves as a couple on social media, and generally avoiding social activities that you would normally engage in with your spouse.

It is also important to keep in mind that your one-year separation period should be continuous and uninterrupted. For example, you are not allowed to reunite with your spouse for a month, and then pick up with your separation again after realizing you still do not want to be married to one another.

To protect your rights during this process, it is a good idea to enter into a separation agreement. This legal document outlines the terms of the separation, resolving issues like custody, splitting debts and property, deciding alimony, and more. This is also the safest and surest way to finalize the terms of your divorce, in the likelihood you choose to file for one.

While legal separation can be a complicated process, it is made much easier by hiring the right lawyer. For questions about legal separation or divorce, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller.