He was an unusual political candidate, Lee Carter was. While running for the House of Delegates in 2017, he admitted to, among other things according to the Chicago Sun-Times1, having explicit photos of himself on the internet, being unable to hold a job, and proceeding through his third divorce. Instead of hiding his dirty laundry, he advertised it, a highly unusual move. In most divorces preceded by separation, you want to avoid the unusual.

Unequivocal: Virginia Law Means What It Says

The wording of Code of Virginia § 20-91 is unambiguous and unequivocal. Divorce from the bonds of matrimony may be granted:

On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. 

When the Code says “without interruption,” you may wonder what that means. It means precisely what is says: a continuous time period for one year (if you have children together) or six months (with no children).

Uninterrupted: Yes, Completely

This subsection of the Code means your separation must be uninterrupted by anything:

  • A one-night stand to rekindle lost passions
  • A quick trip over to your wife’s residence to do laundry
  • Zipping over to fix her flat tire
  • A purchase of an anniversary, birthday or holiday gift
  • An appeal for help when a pipe bursts

Interruption in separation essentially resets the calendar. Under Virginia Code, you and your wife must be separated for six months (if you have no children) or one year (if you have children) before an uncontested divorce can proceed without assigning fault to one or the other of you.

Unsullied: Yes, Really

Many Virginia couples assume their private lives are, well, private. They are until they are laid bare by the legal process. When you and your wife enter a Circuit Court courtroom to proceed with a divorce, you must both be unsullied in the eyes of the judge. The judge will of course not know if you and she slept together once, twice, or for the entire month of January.

The judge may not know, but you both will. Chances are good many of your friends and some of your family will know, too. All the other attorney needs is one witness to testify that your separation was interrupted. The judge will stop the divorce proceedings and remind you to stop being amateurs and stop wasting the court’s time.

Technically, the judge will dismiss your divorce case, forcing you and your attorney to start the whole process over again once you really stay separated for the half-year or year the law requires.

Consider the legal fees that may cost you; consider the tax complications, the effect such a delay may have on your kids. Interrupting your separation is a bad idea, no matter what your mind or other body parts tell you.

Unlawful: Don’t Commit Perjury (or Ask Others To)

Just as crucial as avoiding interruption in separation is legally proving you have not cohabitated during the separation. You may need witnesses or affidavits from family members and friends, whose testimony must be truthful. Perjury in Virginia is unlawful, a Class 5 felony under Code of Virginia, so do not ask your sister to lie for you that you did not go to your wife’s house to have her mend your split pants.

Unguarded: Protect Yourself

In public, coming to grips with separation can be difficult. For some Virginians, divorce still has an air of unrespectability about it. You both try to put on happy faces; you appear together at family functions (acceptable under the law) though you arrive and depart separately. You avoid talking about yourself much to casual acquaintances. You change the subject when your sister-in-law asks how everything’s going.

You need to protect yourself against unguarded moments, though, by admitting to everyone (family, coworkers, friends, fellow church members, school and medical personnel) that you two are in the process of divorcing.

By airing your own “dirty laundry” up front and once, you can avoid the inevitable leaking of negative rumors. You can avoid having to dredge the topic up time after time. You can also form an informal defense network against doing something rash that would be an interruption in your separation.

Suppose you are considering running over to your wife’s house to talk about paying next month’s mortgage. You are both responsible for marital debts during separation, after all — what harm could come of that?

Well if you have a six-pack of beers and a box of condoms in the back seat, ask yourself: what are you really up to? Would your aunt and uncle view your actions as purely financial?

Anytime you are tempted to interrupt your separation, run the idea past a family member or your family law attorney. Look for a solution that keeps you untainted, an answer that is uncontroversial, or a strategy that keeps you uncompromised. Your separation must be uninterrupted.

To get fast, accurate answers to all your family law questions, call 757-383-9184 to reach The Firm For Men, or contact us online. We are the unconventional law firm that can help with separation, divorce and other family law matters.

[1] https://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/lee-carter-candid-virginia-candidate-voluntarily-airs-dirty-laundry/