Every marriage starts with love and happiness, but keeping that together — even for the most perfect of couples — requires work and attention. You have many steps to complete and items to get in order before getting married. The same is true when a marriage ends, and getting a divorce is often more complicated with more steps.
Understanding what you face is paramount to making your divorce proceeding as smooth as possible, and choosing a date of separation for your divorce is one of the most important steps in the divorce process. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about selecting a date of separation.
What is a Date of Separation?
Marriages rarely end abruptly or without warning. They may instead fizzle over many years, and the spouses may agree divorce is the natural next step for them. That can make determining the exact day the marriage ended challenging, however.
In Virginia, the date of separation is a key component to completing your divorce. This date starts the clock that state law requires and is influenced by whether you have children. Here’s what to know:
- If you have minor children, you cannot file for divorce until one year after the date of separation.
- If you do not have minor children, you only need to wait six months after your date of separation to file for divorce.
You cannot arbitrarily choose a date of separation, though. Something must trigger that date. The best way to start the countdown clock is by noting the date of separation in a marital separation agreement. You and your spouse sign this legal document, making it clear that your date of separation is the date noted on the agreement.
Another way is to move out, as the date you no longer live together can be considered a date of separation. Keep your receipt for a moving company or the date your new lease started on a new dwelling to make clear the exact date of your divorce or marital separation.
3 Things to Decide Before Choosing a Separation Date
Selecting a date of separation for your Virginia divorce can seem confusing, but it is a crucial step to getting the process started. The following items are affected by the date of separation and must be considered when you begin the divorce process.
Finalizing Your Divorce
The most important point to understand is that the sooner you establish a date of separation, the sooner your divorce proceeding can end. Because of the timelines listed above, you must wait before a judge signs off on your divorce.
This delay can seem endless while you are in it. The sooner you speak with a compassionate divorce lawyer, the sooner your divorce can end and you can start your new life.
Division of property during a divorce can be a contentious part of the legal proceeding. You might have family heirlooms you brought to the marriage that you want to keep, or may have a special attachment to certain items. The date of separation can play an important role in the division of assets:
- Marital property — This is property acquired during the marriage that is divided equitably between the spouses upon divorce.
- Separate property — This is property brought to the marriage and returned to the spouse who brought it to the marriage at divorce.
- Hybrid property — Hybrid property is mixed property that might include inheritance money you received individually and then used to purchase marital property.
Your date of separation can affect the property distribution. If yours is unclear and you buy yourself something new as you realize your marriage is ending, for example, your spouse may be able to lay claim to that item as marital property because it was acquired during your marriage. This is why it is paramount that you speak with an experienced Virginia divorce lawyer who can guide you through the complex divorce process.
Divorce proceedings will establish any spousal support. This is generally provided by one spouse to another to help the dependent spouse start their new life. The dependent spouse is usually the one who kept the house or raised the children while the other spouse contributed financially. If your spouse was dependent on you and you agreed to separate, you can establish a date of separation by providing your spouse with regular spousal support payments. The date of the first check might qualify as your official date of separation.
These issues can be confusing or convoluted, but understanding the process and how assets are impacted is important. Partnering with a trusted Virginia divorce lawyer can help you understand the process ahead and help you prepare.
Common Mistakes When Choosing a Date of Separation
Divorce is already an emotional process. You may not be thinking clearly and just want the process to end. This can make it difficult to establish an equitable outcome. Working with a divorce lawyer can help you keep this perspective and achieve your goals.
Here are a few things to consider when going through a Virginia divorce proceeding:
- Do not rush the process.
You may want this to end as quickly as possible, but it may take time to ensure you receive an equitable divorce. Setting the date of separation can help speed up this process.
- Do not destroy property.
Even if you feel anger and disdain for your spouse, destroying property in a vengeful manner will not be looked upon kindly by the court when finalizing your divorce. It may even mean that you receive a less equitable outcome.
- Stay off social media.
You may seek validation and support from your friends and family by posting updates on social media. It’s important to make sure these updates do not become spiteful, however.
Regardless of the truth of your comments, they can be viewed negatively by a judge and may impact your divorce outcome.
- Trust your lawyer.
Your divorce lawyer is your legal advocate. If you keep things from them, they cannot protect your rights as fully as if you are completely forthcoming and honest. It may be uncomfortable, but opening up to your lawyer can help you achieve your goals.
Get Help with Your Uncontested Divorce in Virginia
Going through a divorce is an emotional and stressful process. Shed the stress and legal concern to an experienced Virginia divorce lawyer. Your lawyer can guide you through the complex divorce process and help you achieve your goals.
Contact us today to speak with a trusted Virginia divorce lawyer about establishing your date of separation and finalizing your divorce.