In-Home Separation in Virginia: How You Can ‘Separate’ While Living Under the Same Roof

By: John Whitbeck

[08.03.2020] Virginia family law requires divorcing couples to live separately for some time – either six or 12 months, depending on the circumstances – before they can file for an uncontested divorce.

For the vast majority of people, living together with their soon-to-be-ex-spouse under the same roof after announcing plans to divorce would be an awkward and unpleasant experience.

Although most people prefer to live in separate households during the mandatory separation period in Virginia, some end up living in the same home during their separation and pending divorce proceedings. Many choose in-home separation for financial reasons because not everyone can afford to buy or rent a separate dwelling.

But how does a separated couple continue living in the family home after calling it quits so that it still counts as “in-home separation”?

Can You Actually ‘Separate’ While Living Under One Roof? 

Generally, Virginia courts recognize in-home separation as valid as long as the separated couple no longer are or act as a married couple. The separated couple is required to follow a few rules when separating in the same home.

The best analogy is you should live like a roommate versus a spouse. That means such things as coming and going on different schedules, sleeping in different rooms, not sharing meals or holidays, telling third parties you are separated, etc.

Also, signing an agreement in writing can help avoid disputes over either party’s intentions and establish the official date of your separation.

A Virginia divorce attorney can help you create a plan for the new living arrangements to avoid confusion during the separation period.

When Do Virginia Courts Recognize In-Home Separation as Valid?

A divorcing couple must follow a few rules when living “separate” under the same roof:

  • Stop being or acting as a married couple;
  • Live your life as if you are sharing your home with a roommate;
  • You must maintain separate bedrooms;
  • There cannot be any romantic relations between you and your spouse;
  • You cannot present yourself in public as a married couple;
  • If possible, separate personal expenses;
  • Stop taking meals together, doing each other’s laundry, and doing other things married individuals do for one another;
  • Keep your communication to a minimum; and
  • Let your close relatives and friends know that you are living “separately.”

Other Legal Requirements for In-Home Separation in Virginia

If you and your spouse continue living in the family home during the separation period, you must notify other people, including your friends and family members.

Virginia family law requires another individual to verify your in-home separation during the divorce proceedings. This individual can be a friend, neighbor, friend, co-worker, or even your adult child.

The only requirement is that this person would either have to visit your house during the separation period frequently or live under the same roof with you and your spouse. If his or her visits were weekly or monthly, this person needs to recognize signs of a separated couple.

In other words, that individual needs to verify that the two people lived in a way that is not equivalent to marriage (see the in-home separation rules above). Talk to a divorce attorney before separating to ensure that you are on the right track and understand all in-house separation requirements in Virginia.

If you need assistance with in-home separation in Virginia, contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or email clientservices@wblaws.com.

Related: Divorce