Virginia Family Law
A Blog by Jason A Weis, Esq.
Virginia & Maryland Family Law Attorney

Checklist For Establishing In-House Separation In Virginia

Checklist For Establishing In-House Separation In Virginia

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, you are probably already aware of Virginia’s requirement that you separate for 6 or 12 months, depending on your circumstances. Maintaining separate households during this mandatory separation period can be a serious strain on your budget. In my practice, I am seeing a significant rise in “in-house separations” – living together during separation.

Some time ago, the Commonwealth recognized the economic difficulties inherent in maintaining two separate households on an income previously budgeted for one. For couples contemplating divorce, making an additional rent or mortgage payment for the required six or twelve months of separation was all but impossible; couples, who wanted and needed to live separately, simply could not afford to do so.

Enter “In-House Separation.”
“In-house separations” have become more prevalent, in my practice, as couples attempt to tightly manage their out flow of divorce-related expenses. Such separations, however, require more than one spouse merely moving into the spare bedroom.

How to Establish In-House Separation?
Couples considering an in-house separation must strive to establish a second household under a single roof. Below is a checklist of factors a court might consider when determining whether a separate household has been established. Though no single factor is determinative (save perhaps sexual intimacy), couples should strive to meet as many as possible.

Checklist For Establishing In-House Separation In Virginia:

  • Establish, maintain and demonstrate intent to permanently separate. (In other words, you must be committed to the divorce. “Intent” is key.)
  • Establish separate bedrooms.
  • Cease romantic or sexual intimacy.
  • Stop wearing wedding rings.
  • Shop for your own food and prepare your own meals.
  • Do not shop for any other categories of items (clothing, other necessities, etc.) on behalf of your spouse.
  • Do not use your spouse’s food or other purchases.
  • Do not eat meals together (except holidays or children’s birthdays).
  • Care for and clean your own space within the home, such as your bedroom.
  • Do your own laundry.
  • Establish separate checking accounts.
  • Cease socializing (e.g. do not attend parties, movies, theater together).
  • Do not attend church together.
  • If you have young children, interact as parents only where strictly necessary from the children’s perspective and their well-being (e.g., it is appropriate to attend a meeting with a school official relative to problems confronting a particular child, but less appropriate for the parents to ride together and sit together at a child’s school play or soccer game).
  • Cease gift-giving between spouses for such occasions as birthdays, Christmas, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, etc.
  • Make it known to close associates and relatives that you and your spouse are separated within the residence, though continuing to reside under the same roof.
  • Have a third party come to the home from time to time to personally observe the your separate and distinct living quarters (bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.).
  • Use separate entrances to residence, if feasible.

It is important to note that like traditional physical separations, in-house separations require corroboration (you need a third-party witness to verify the separation). In many jurisdictions the success of an in-house separation depends entirely upon the level of corroboration presented to the court. A relative, nanny, friend or domestic helper who is present in the home several times a week for several hours at a time may prove necessary to confirm that a second household has in fact been established.

If you’ve got questions about the information above, please feel free to drop me a line.  Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran Moher Weis P.C. – – 10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020.

Virginia Family Law: Tips on How Not to Hate Your Spouse – Constructive Desertion

Couples who often use the words “we” and “our” have happier marriages than those who usually use the words “I” or “his” or “her.” That is the conclusion of a new University of California, Berkley study on why couples fight and how they resolve marital disagreements. Researchers analyzed the conversations of 154 middle-aged couples while those couples discussed conflicts within their marriages. As part of the monitoring, the researchers recorded common psychological indicators of stress and anger such as heart rate and sweating. Couples who used lots of “I” words were more likely to turn the discussions into bitter fights and to express overall dissatisfaction with their marriages. On the other hand, couples who consistently spoke of their problems in the context of “we” and “us” were less stressed by disagreements and happier in general. “Individuality is a deeply ingrained value in society,” Robert Levenson observes to the Edinburgh Scotsman. “But, at least in the realm of marriage, being part of a ‘we’ is well worth giving up a bit of ‘me.’”

Though in Virginia one spouse is not justified in leaving the other merely because the two are “unable to live together in peace and harmony” or there has been a “gradual breakdown” in the marital relationship, courts do recognize the concept of “constructive desertion.” This is the concept that one spouse’s conduct may be sufficient to justify the other spouse leaving, despite the fact that the complained of conduct by itself would not constitute fault (most often cruelty).  So, for example, if your spouse’s conduct creates conditions “so intolerable that you cannot reasonably be expected to remain in the home,” you might leave the home without committing desertion. Often, constructive desertion requires a showing that the fleeing spouse’s health is in danger, but not always. If you would like to learn more about constructive desertion or desertion for that matter, feel free to drop me a line.


My experience and background reflect the hallmarks of success one must demand of a lawyer in Northern Virginia's legal landscape.  As a native of this area, I have here focused my practice on providing sound and balanced representation to clients navigating the difficult legal waters of family law, including contested divorce, custody, visitation, spousal and child support, and equitable distribution.  More >>>

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Jason A. Weis, Esquire
Curran Moher Weis
10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520
Fairfax, Virginia 22030

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Phone: (571) 328-5020

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Legal Disclaimer

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you find the information here as enjoyable to read as I find to write. Please note that reading this blog does not create a legal relationship between you and Jason A. Weis, Esquire or any other attorney associated with Moreover, all postings on this blog are merely attorneys' commentary on the state of family law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. THE POSTINGS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE – if you have a legal issue or question, I strongly encourage you to contact a lawyer. I would be pleased to refer you to someone if I am able.