Barroom lawyers are interesting folks. If you want to start a friendly—or not-so-friendly — argument spirited discussion in a Virginia bar, take bets on the concept of “legal separation in Virginia.” Hint: Virginia has no mechanism for “legal separation.” A married couple is either married or divorced, and during the time before divorce, you two are separated but still married under Virginia law. Does being separated have any advantages over being divorced?
Your faith may keep you from divorcing. According to website Our Everyday Life, four major religions forbid divorce:
- Jainism—Divorce is considered an act of violence in this pacific, peaceful belief system
- Catholicism—Divorce is only possible if the marriage was not performed by a Catholic priest or included a non-Catholic spouse
- Sikhism—A Sikh wedding includes lifelong vows to honor and preserve the marriage; separation is possible, but not divorce
- Hinduism—Even if the marriage is arranged by families and not by the wedding couple, the bond is permanent
Other religions may also discourage divorce to such a degree that you and your spouse feel bound to uphold your faith, pressured by a religious leader, churchgoers, or family.
You and your spouse may choose to separate rather than divorce to provide the best environment for your children. Every relationship is unique. If the constant strained arguments, low-volume fights, and almost-slammed doors seem to be taking a toll on your kids, separation can bring serenity.
Divorce has a finality your children may not be prepared to accept. Rather than possibly damage their young psyches, you two may opt to separate and stay relatively amicable. The children will still have a Mom and Dad, and the family will still, at least on paper, be “together.”
Until the United States joins the majority of the developed world and adopts a single-payer healthcare system, our health insurance is hopelessly tied to our employment and marital status. If one of you is carrying the family on a healthcare insurance plan from an employer, staying with the plan makes financial and medical sense.
Divorce severs the ties to that valuable insurance. Finding replacement coverage can be daunting, or downright impossible if any family member has a pre-existing condition. For many Virginia families, staying married but separated becomes an economic necessity.
Taxes and Social Security
On a completely capitalistic level, separation brings cash rewards. By being separated but not divorced, you two can file joint tax returns, share in each other’s Social Security benefits, and tap into each other’s pensions, as explained by the New York Times.
You can even cut down on real estate expenses by separating but sharing the same house. With rising real estate prices, a separation under the same roof could be a major moneysaver.
Before you dismiss separate-but-not-divorced as capitalistically cold, recall that Warren Buffett, the fabulously wealthy CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, separated from wife Susan in 1977 but stayed married to her until her 2004 passing. His live-in girlfriend shared space on the couple’s Christmas cards: “From Warren, Susan, and Astrid.”
Time apart, without divorce, can provide a safe space for each of you to recover your own personality, determine your own goals, and get a clearer focus on a future together or apart. The phrase “trial separation” comes from science, not law. Just as scientists conduct trials of experiments, you two can conduct an experiment in separation.
Are you healthier, happier, and stronger apart? Do you feel freedom or loneliness? Are you sexually liberated or sexually frustrated? The time apart can be refreshing or frightening, but you can never know until you try.
Experts as Psychology Today point to several benefits of a temporary separation:
- Rather than signaling the beginning of the end, separation can help you two to stay together
- When done with the support of a therapist, counselor, or psychologist, the time apart allows you both to explore your fears and worries
- You have time alone with your thoughts and can constructively find ways to get the marriage back on track, without distractions
Perhaps the best reason of all to separate without considering divorce is the hope you both still have in your marriage. Writing at Marriage.com, Sylvia Smith cites 13 percent of separated couples who return to the marriage; not great odds, but greater than zero odds.
Successful reconciliation requires substantial investment in time, thought, and emotion:
- Use the services of an unbiased counselor or guide to help you grow and learn tools for emotional reconnection
- Actively work during the separation on the problems that caused you to separate
- Ask yourself the hardest, most hurtful questions and work to find answers (sources of friction like infidelity, sexual malaise, addiction, dishonesty, or even spousal abuse)
The Firm For Men focuses on helping Virginia’s men to protect their rights, safeguard their financial futures, and find peace of mind. Contact us today to learn more about our family law services, from separation to divorce and more.