Separated in the Same House (Virginia)
When Marja Kaarina Bchara suspected her husband, Adnan Bchara, of adultery in January of 2000, she moved his possessions out of the master bedroom and into the guest bedroom, and sued him for divorce.
At trial the wife testified she took these actions to live separate and apart from her husband. She stopped attending family functions with husband and his family. She would not attend church with him. She stopped depositing money into their joint checking account. However, she continued to buy groceries, cook, do laundry, and clean house. She said she asked her husband several times to leave the house, but he refused to do so.
A friend of the wife testified she visited the house once a week and observed the parties living in separate bedrooms. The wife told her friend that she and husband were no longer “a couple.” The divorce was granted. Adnan Bchara V. Marja Kaarina Bchara, 38 Va. App. 302; 563 S.E.2d 398 (Va. App. 2002).
So in Virginia, unlike Maryland, you can get a divorce based on separation while living in the same house. Also in Virginia, unlike DC and Maryland, a divorce may be granted upon separation for one year if only one of the parties intends that the separation be permanent. Separation in the same house requires:
- a separation – you cannot be separated in the same bedroom
- a clear starting event – here the discovery of adultery, and
- corroboration – so you need at least one frequent visitor.
You can maximize the likelihood of success by:
- a written separation agreement
- a clear event such as one spouse moves to the basement or lower level, documented and witnessed
- don’t have sexual relations
- separate the finances
- don’t go out together
- tell everyone you are separated and you are getting a divorce
- if you have children, don’t have family dinners and don’t drive to their events together