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The Myth of Legal Separation in Virginia

I frequently receive e-mails or phone calls from prospective clients who wish to start the process of separation. First off, there is no formal legal separation in Virginia. You do not have to go to Court to be separated. You simply separate. However, before you do so, there are lots of factors for you to consider and the actions you take at this time could have long lasting ramifications in future legal proceedings. You are strongly advised to consult with a divorce attorney BEFORE you decide to separate. When I have a prospective client in this situation I usually offer them a low cost consultation so that they can be advised of all of the traps for the unwary.

Before the parties separate, or soon thereafter, is often the best time to enter into a property settlement agreement. This agreement will control custody, visitation, support, and division of the marital property. The great thing about this agreement is that you and your spouse control the terms, not two lawyers and a judge. If a property settlement agreement is entered into quickly, the process of separation usually goes smoothly and all that is left is for the days of the calendar to pass until it is time to file for divorce.


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Virginia is an equitable distribution state, which means if the spouses don't agree, the marital estate will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. In dividing property the court considers the contributions, both "monetary and non-monetary," of each spouse, the duration of the marriage, the ages and conditions of each spouse, how marital property was acquired, the debts and liabilities of each spouse, tax consequences, dissipation, the "character of all marital property," and "other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award."
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