In order to obtain an uncontested divorce in Virginia, spouses must live separate and apart for six months if there are no minor children and one year if there are minor children of the marriage. However, there is no legal process to establish the status of being legally separated in Virginia.
During the period divorcing partners are living separate and apart, they may want to enter into a separation agreement. This can speed up the process of getting divorced and make it go more smoothly.
Benefits of a Separation Agreement
A separation agreement is not an agreement to separate and will not conclusively establish that the couple separated for determining their eligibility for a no-contest divorce. It is a contract between the spouses to resolve their rights and obligations in the divorce. This agreement is often referred to as a marital settlement agreement.
There are a few limitations in entering into a separation agreement. First, it must voluntarily be entered into by both spouses. In addition, it is not a court order and is not enforceable until it is incorporated in the divorce judgment.
Even with the limitations on what a separation agreement can do for a divorcing couple, it can be very beneficial to enter into one. Benefits include:
- Resolve issues. A separation agreement will contain a resolution of the issues that must be addressed in a divorce, such as a property settlement, child custody and parenting time, and child support payments.
- Give control. A couple will have much more control over how issues in their divorce are resolved if they work them out and include them in the separation agreement rather than if they leave the decision to the judge.
- Agree on non-divorce issues. In a separation agreement, the parties can include provisions on how to handle issues that the court cannot decide, such as post-secondary education and parental time on holidays when their children turn 18 years old.
- Speed up the divorce. Having a separation agreement can make the process of finalizing a no-fault divorce go quicker because all the issues in the divorce will have been resolved.
- Save money. A divorcing couple will pay fewer attorney fees if they enter into a separation agreement than if they must fight about issues in court.
Do You Need a Lawyer If You Agree to a Separation Agreement?
Even if you and your spouse agree on the provisions of a separation agreement and plan to file an uncontested divorce, it is best to hire an experienced family law lawyer to draft your separation agreement. They will look out for your interests and be certain that all the issues in your divorce are included in your agreement. To learn how we can help you, call our Norfolk office or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation today.