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Does Virginia Require a Separation Agreement?

By October 29, 2023Divorce

While many states across the country have a requirement for a formal legal separation document between the parties in order to recognize a separation, the state of Virginia does not.

In fact, in Virginia, there is no such thing as a formal, legal separation, and the phrase “separation agreement” here is the colloquial name often given to the document which formalizes the agreements of the parties as to the division of assets and debts, the custody and support arrangements for any children, and the award of spousal support, if any.

Do you need a separation agreement to be separated, or even to get divorced? No. However, as many Virginia divorce attorneys will tell you, it is an excellent idea for you and your spouse to have signed a written separation agreement when the two of you decide to separate, and certainly before anyone moves out of the house.

A well-drafted separation agreement not only protects your interests, but also allows the divorce process to go far smoother and often faster than without one.

If you live in Roanoke, Virginia and need a separation agreement, our experienced family law attorneys at Slovensky Law can help. Here’s everything you need to know about separation agreements and what a well-drafted separation agreement can do for you.

What is a separation agreement?

In the state of Virginia, separation is not something that is legally granted by the courts. A separation is a state of being between two spouses, and two spouses are separated when they live for a period of time “separate and apart from one another, with the intent to remain separate and apart,” and without getting back together. 

If you and your spouse are separating, a separation agreement might be very important. 

Why so important? Because a separation agreement protects both you and your spouse in a variety of ways, including:

  • Dividing assets and debts fairly and in a way which you and your spouse control. 
  • Ensuring the parameters for child visitation, custody, and child support are clearly stated.
  • Ensuring other important areas are covered (such as spousal support and continuation of health insurance).
  • Clearly stating the intention of living apart (which is required to get a divorce in Virginia) as of a defined date.

If a separation agreement isn’t required, why does Slovensky Law recommend it?

When it comes to separation and divorce, emotions run high, and there are real consequences for taking certain actions without having an agreement in place. 

And unfortunately, an oral agreement is usually not enough to hold someone to a promise in the context of divorce. Without a written, signed document in place laying out exactly what each spouse’s rights and obligations, it is nearly impossible to ensure that each party will stick to what they promise. 

Also, a separation agreement is a way for two divorcing spouses to exert control over their situation. If you do not have a signed agreement, then the only other realistic option is to allow a judge to decide who gets what. A judge is limited in what he or she has the power to do, and can only utilize a narrow range of options to resolve any issues.

Often, parties leaving matters up to a judge to decide both walk away from their divorce upset at the outcome. By contrast, two spouses negotiating and signing a separation agreement can employ a wide range of creative solutions to that couple’s specific problems. 

Finally, a separation agreement is usually far cheaper than paying divorce lawyers to argue the parties’ positions in court, and helps to pave the way for a smoother transition from marriage through divorce. It tends to ensure that, as far as possible, each spouse and child (if applicable) has his or her share of the available resources. It is the most amicable resolution to what is usually a very tough set of problems. 

Does an attorney have to draft my separation agreement in Virginia?

No. If you live in Roanoke, Virginia, or any other city in Virginia, an attorney is not needed to create a separation agreement. 

However, just like you would for any other binding document, an attorney can make sure that the agreement is fair, and that the provisions in place do not hinder or cause issues with obtaining a divorce after your separation period.

Though some people do try to draft their own separation agreements without first consulting a lawyer, few do so correctly, and the results are often financially catastrophic. We review separation agreements regularly where the parties misunderstood their rights and failed to adequately protect themselves in a DIY-separation agreement.

If I live in Roanoke, do I need to adhere to a separation period?

Yes. Across the state of Virginia, couples are required to live separately for a minimum of 6 months (or 12 months if you and your spouse have children under the age of 18), or the state will not grant the divorce. 

A separation agreement, followed by the required separation period, shows the courts that both parties agree to the divorce, and that all matters of asset or debt division, child custody and support are uncontested. Having a complete, signed separation agreement makes the divorce a  “no-fault,” uncontested divorce. 

With a no-fault, uncontested divorce, your divorce will take less time – and cost less money – since there is nothing more to argue about.

Contact Slovensky Law today

Finding the right lawyer to help you navigate separation and divorce is key. Slovensky Law is proud to offer Roanoke residents the option to separate and divorce with dignity.

If you are interested in getting a divorce in the state of Virginia, we can help you navigate all of the complexities – including crafting a separation agreement that will work for you. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact our Roanoke, Virginia office. We look forward to hearing from you.

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