Whereas Virginia law allows divorce, it does so under two basic constructs: “fault grounds,” and “no fault grounds,” as established by Code of Virginia Title 20 Chapter 6 Subsection 20-911. Notice how we started with that fancy whereas, which the state of Virginia buys wholesale, by the pound, because it sprinkles the word profusely throughout its various documents and decrees.
If you must divorce and both of you are in agreement, a “no fault grounds” divorce is preferable to finding a fault for grounds, since the faults are uniformly distasteful (sodomy, felony, adultery, buggery). Simply put, having a separation agreement (loaded with whereases and therefores) greatly simplifies your later divorce.
What is a Separation Agreement?
Also known as a property settlement agreement, a separation agreement is not developed by the courts. Whereas you, your soon-to-be-ex-wife, and both your attorneys put in a bit of collaborative work to draw up the agreement, therefore you can present it to the court when you file for divorce.
Be sure to check with your own city or county court clerk’s office as to the appropriate form you’ll need. Remember: court clerks cannot offer legal advice, so also talk to a lawyer familiar with your city’s requirements and nuances. The form for your separation can only be used when your divorce can proceed under very specific conditions:
- No fault, no contest—Neither you nor your wife contests any of the grounds for divorce (since this is a no fault divorce, the grounds are a mutual agreement to separate)
- Physically and conjugally separated for a minimum of six months
- No minor children in the marriage
As with all legal documents, that great contraction whereas (dating, we are told, from the 14th century and meaning [obviously, we hope], “in consideration of the fact”) is festooned across most every part of your separation document:
- WHEREAS, we each have exercised good faith and have made fair, accurate and complete disclosure to each other regarding all financial and property matters pertaining to this marital settlement agreement;
- WHEREAS, we mutually desire to settle by agreement all matters regarding our marital affairs, personal and real property and finances;
- WHEREAS, we mutually intend this agreement to be final disposition regarding the marital issues addressed herein and intend that this agreement be incorporated into any subsequent DECREE OF DIVORCE.
Whereas You Two Play Nice, You Avoid Much of the Divorce Stress
In consideration of the fact that (whereas!) you and your nearly ex-wife have played nice and worked out all the details, the court accelerates your divorce by avoiding some of the traditional trappings:
- Preliminary hearings
This cuts the time down greatly, though nobody can guarantee you how quickly your divorce will be ruled upon, despite ads for quick and cheap Virginia divorces.
Therefore, Divvy Up: Being Fair About Marital Property
The separation agreement is also called a property agreement because it shows the two of you thought through all your assets (and debts) and divided everything up. Here are some suggestions of areas to consider:
- Real estate
- Personal property
- Bank accounts
You and your almost-ex-wife have to go through everything and agree—ahead of the lawyers, ahead of the judge, ahead of the divorce itself—on equitable distribution of assets and liabilities. You cannot leave her with all the credit card debt, for example, and walk away with your house and land. (Well, legally, you can, if she accepts it, but why would she? Insanity grounds are a whole other issue.)
Whereas a Separation Agreement Helps, It is NOT the Same as a Divorce
A separation agreement is not the same as the divorce. It simplifies and streamlines the divorce. You still should use a lawyer for the divorce, but you can cut out some of the waiting. You are not relieved of responsibility to provide spousal or child support, but you are relieved of potentially months of waiting for all the motions and hearings.
In return for the expedited divorce, you have to live apart, as the law says, “separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months.” This cuts the typical wait in half.
Therefore, Get a Skilled Separation & Divorce Lawyer
Whereas the courts themselves will not create or issue a separation agreement for you, therefore you should get a lawyer to ensure compliance with your city’s court, with the legal details within the agreement, and with the future steps of getting the actual divorce.
Call The Firm for Men, located in the heart of Virginia Beach, at 757-383-9184 to schedule a consultation. Whereas we know all about property agreements, therefore we can help you draw up an appropriate separation agreement and help pull together all your assets and liabilities. This early work can also make our legal work faster and more efficient when you are ready to file for divorce. The Firm For Men represents men exclusively in family law matters – contact us today and protect your legal rights!