While Virginia law generally does not require separation agreements, spouses can negotiate a separation agreement that will resolve issues such as custody, child visitation, spousal maintenance, use of marital property, and division of property until the final divorce. There is a long-standing principle that people can make a contract as good or as bad as they want. This is particularly the case for separation agreements that can only be repealed in Virginia for limited reasons — if they were entered into under “unlawful influence” or “unscrupulously.” Virginia laws now provide for the “equitable” distribution of marital property and marital debts between the parties at the end of the divorce. “marital property” consists of all co-titled property as well as any other property, with the exception of separate property acquired by one or two parties, from the date of marriage until the date of final separation. “separate property” means property that was in the possession of a party before the marriage, property acquired after the separation of the parties, or inherited property and/or gifts to a party from a third party. When “marital property” and “separate property” are mixed, or when the value of “separate property” is increased by the active efforts of one of the parties during the marriage, such property may be considered “matrimonial property” or “separate and partially separated” property. As a general rule, debt is considered a “conjugal debt” when it is in the common name of the parties and was incurred before the date of the last separation of the parties, or, in the case of debt that is only in the name of one party, if the debt arose after the date of the marriage and before the date of the last separation of the parties. On the other hand, “separate guilt” is a debt that appeared only in the name of a party before the marriage or after the date of the final separation of the parties. In determining whether a debt is conjugal or separate, the court may also consider the reason for the occurrence of a debt. Although separation is a “flawless” ground for divorce, fault can still be a problem when support is sought or be a factor in determining the distribution of matrimonial property. In addition, a judge is free to justify a divorce on the grounds of fault, even if there is “no fault” of separation, and vice versa, a judge is free to award a “no-fault divorce”, even if there are grounds for fault. The emotional strains in an unhappy marriage can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the average couple to handle divorce and separation in a cold or objective way. A lawyer with specific knowledge of divorce law, custody and related matters can help a client be fully aware of their own rights and obligations in this complex area.
Sometimes marriages break down without some guilt resting on one of the parties. You can get a clean divorce in Virginia if you live apart from your spouse for one year or if you live apart from your spouse for six months, if you have a separation agreement and if you don`t have minor children. If there is a mistake in your separation case, but you do not want to divorce for moral or religious reasons, “separate support” can be an effective route. This Virginia statute gives the court the power to rule on child/spouse maintenance and visitation rights. However, separate maintenance does not allow the court to divide property. Personalized advice from Graham Law Firm can help you decide if separate maintenance is the right option for you. An attorney at Graham Law Firm can help you take all the right steps to enter into a separation agreement in the state of Virginia.