Olivia Roehm weighs 111 pounds. Or, she did the day she and husband Jerome Roehm won the 2019 North American Wife Carrying Championship1, held in October in Maine. We’re not being nosy — the winning couple got five times the wife’s weight in cash (in Olivia’s case, $555), plus her weight in beer (six cases). We bring this up because many a Virginia man feels like he is carrying around the weight of the world, or perhaps just his wife, on his shoulders. And if she tells you that you have 30 days to vacate your love nest, you may think you have to carry everything you own out of the house.

Whose House Is It Anyway?

If you and your Virginia wife are legally married (in any jurisdiction), then the home you make in Virginia is your legal marital home. The court does not care if you have only one of your names on the deed, rent from a mullet-sporting guy in an A-shirt, or stay in an RV at Virginia Beach’s own Sea Mist RV Park. If you both live there, it is your marital home.

She can say anything she wants. That does not mean her dictum is legally enforceable. She can ask you to leave, she can offer you money to leave, but she cannot legally make you give up your marital home. Even if your name is not on the deed and hers is, she cannot evict you.

Suppose you live in the basement of her parents’ home. (Hey, nobody is judging!) You may be between jobs, or disabled, or needing to attend school full-time. If that basement is your “marital home,” neither she nor her parents can kick you out.

Spoiler Alert: It May Be Awkward

The only exception to this inability to evict you from your own marital home is if she is claiming you abused her. Then she needs to involve law enforcement and have the police or a court eject you under a protective order.

If the allegations are false, though, she is in violation of Code of Virginia § 18.2-461, filing a false report. That is a Class 1 misdemeanor and unlikely to impress the Circuit Court judge handling your divorce. Her attorney will not like having to defend her against those charges, as it weakens her case. She will not like the penalty, either, as described in Virginia Code § 18.2-11:

For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

Do we need to remind all Virginia men not to hit their wives? First, it is morally wrong; second, it is legally wrong; third, it severely limits your recourse if she tries to throw you out of your own house.

Do You Have A Property Settlement Agreement?

If the two of you have a property settlement agreement pending a divorce, she may petition the court for a ruling to assign one or the other of you to the marital home. This would be done as a regular filing with the proper Circuit Court.

Since it is a regular motion, your attorney and you would have ample opportunity to develop a strategy or find a solution to her claim. Perhaps you do not want to vacate. Then your attorney files a motion to protect your right to remain.

If you two have children, expect the home to be awarded (temporarily) to the custodial spouse, which could be either of you. If you have no children, look to the deed and see whose name is on it. If both of your names are on the deed or title, she cannot eject you.

In no case, not even with a property settlement agreement, can your wife compel you to vacate your marital home, no matter how humble.

Is it Awkward?

Even though your wife cannot throw you out of the house, you have to accept that legal does not mean comfortable. You know she does not want you there, but you know you can stay. Expect the air to be chilly. The hearth not so cozy. The couch not very comfy.

You may opt instead to leave voluntarily, but you still preserve your right to the marital home even while waiting for separation and, eventually, divorce. Vacating the physical address does not mean you vacated your rights.

Jerome and Olivia have probably finished their beer by now, and we doubt if Jerome carried Olivia all the way back to their Delaware, where they live under the same shared roof. So far as we know.

If you are confused about your wife’s rights and your rights, consult us at The Firm For Men. Contact us online or telephone our office at 757-383-9184 to let us help you know your rights.

1. https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2019/10/14/newark-couple-wins-north-american-wife-carrying-championship/3973174002/