In Virginia, either party of a marriage is permitted to initiate a divorce based upon fault or no-fault grounds. Fault based divorces are permitted to be initiated immediately provided that the required grounds are existing at the time of filing. Fault based grounds include abuse, desertion, and adultery. If no such grounds exist for a fault based divorce, couples may opt to proceed with a no-fault divorce. To qualify for a no-fault divorce, the parties are required to live separate and apart for either six or twelve months (depending on whether there are minor children) prior to filing for divorce.

Unlike many other states, Virginia does not have a “legal separation” under the law. Once one of the parties removes themselves from the marriage with the purpose to make the separation permanent, the law finds that to be adequate to establish a separation. There is no need to express those intentions to anyone, including the spouse, nor to have any formal agreement. Although, as you can imagine, to not have some sort of formal document is a prescription for headaches.

A separation agreement is a legal document that states how the parties will proceed in the course of the separation time. In most situations, the agreement will be incorporated into a final divorce decree and further explain the particular rights and obligations of the individuals in the course of the divorce. It may help to enter a hassle free transition into final dissolution of the marriage. The topics addressed in a separation agreement can go a long way in protecting the rights and belongings of the parties for future divorce proceedings.

Most agreements handle the traditional matters of child custody and visitation, support questions (child support and spousal support), insurance issues, and some debt and property allocation. Separation agreements can be broad guidelines under which the parties will live, or they may be meticulous in each detail. The style depends only on the level at which the parties are ready to cooperate in the process.

Once the terms of the separation agreement have been chosen, the parties can then establish whether the agreement will provide the basis of a future divorce decree. If so, once the required separation interval has run, either party can file a complaint for divorce and then right away submit a Final Divorce Decree which may references the separation agreement for details. Generally this can be achieved by one party as an uncontested divorce without requiring additional participation of the other.

Separation agreements are legal documents, similar to contracts, signed by both parties in front of a notary public. If one of the parties fails to abide by the terms of the agreement, the agreement may be filed with the court for ratification, and the offending party may be held in contempt of court. If found in contempt, they may be sanctioned, be responsible for the other party’s costs and attorney’s costs, and perhaps even jailed.

There is no requirement to get separation agreements drawn up by an attorney. Yet, because they are legally binding documents, it would be good to have the agreement drafted by a divorce attorney, particularly if the document is later to be used as the basis of the divorce decree.

James Garrett is the founder of Garrett Law Group, PLC in Virginia Beach, VA. The firm serves clients in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA areas. The firm helps clients in need of criminal and traffic defense, divorce and child custody, adoption, bankruptcy, and personal injury matters. (757) 422-4646.

Virginia Beach divorce attorneys for separation agreement

Virginia Beach divorce lawyer

Virginia Beach divorce attorney

Author's Bio: 

James Garret is the founding member of Garrett Law Group, PLC in Hampton Roads, VA. His firm staffs attorneys for criminal defense, lawyers for traffic tickets, family law attorneys, and accident injury lawyers.