The short answer to this question is “no”. In Virginia, people remain married until a court enters a divorce decree. To get a divorce in Virginia, a couple ordinarily must separate for 1 year. There are exceptions to this waiting period. While important, this separation is not the same as a “legal separation”.
Basically, separation means the married couple has in some manner parted ways. Those with detailed questions about what is or is not separation should speak to an experienced family law attorney.
The bottom line, though, is that if a person wants court-backed legal protection after splitting from their spouse, they will need to get a divorce. After a divorce, the Commonwealth of Virginia views the marriage as over and leaves the couple legally free to marry again.
It is worth pointing out that Virginia allows for a divorce from bed and board. Divorce from bed and board works a lot like the legal separation process other states use. The couple remains legally married, but a court still decides custody, alimony, child support and property division.
One big obstacle to using this type of divorce is that no-fault divorces from bed and board are not allowed. A person wanting this type of divorce will have to prove the other person has engaged in some type of improper behavior.
What can I do if I need family law help but do not want a divorce?
There are many people in Alexandria and Northern Virginia who may not wish to divorce for religious, personal or even financial reasons. Yet, they still need protection.
No alternative is perfect, but people in this situation should consider the following options:
- As is the case with a divorce from bed and board, a person who can prove their case could get a protective order. Protective orders often can give many of the same protections that the person would have in a divorce.
- It’s not a realistic possibility in many cases, but a couple could try to reconcile. If it helps, Virginia does recognize post-nuptial agreements. A post-nuptial agreement can spell out what will happen to a couple’s property if they do try to reconcile but their efforts do not work.
- Couples can sign separation agreements before they receive a divorce decree. These agreements can resolve all issues between the couple and are binding contracts. However, since they are not court orders, they may be harder to enforce. Also, as the name implies, both sides must sign on to the terms for this option to work.
That said, it may be wise of the part of separating couples to seek professional guidance. The right guidance can make sure that your interests are protected all through the divorce or separation proceedings.