The Truth About Separation Agreements in Virginia
Typically, when a client comes in for a consultation, they have some misconceptions about what separation agreements, also known as property settlement agreements, are like.
So, forget what your friend said. Forget what you read on the internet or saw in a movie. Let’s bust some myths and look at the truth about separation agreements.
“We have to live in separate places for a year, so I don’t have to plan for a divorce yet.”
False. Even if you are living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, you should seek legal counsel if you (or your spouse) are considering a divorce. Consult an attorney and find out about what you need to do to protect your rights. It’s important to remember that what you do now can significantly impact your case in the long term.
“I’ll lose the house if I move out during a separation”
Actually, if you share ownership of, or equity in a residence, you don’t forfeit your rights by moving out of the shared residence. However, the decision to live in a separate residence can be complicated and comes with its own legal and practical implications. We recommend discussing this with your attorney before you decide.
“If we don’t agree on everything we will have to go to court.”
While some cases do require a final hearing before a judge, many are resolved beforehand. Even if your case is very contentious to begin with, you don’t necessarily have to go before a judge.
It’s true that someone has to make the decisions about child support, custody and visitation, property division and more. But the people in the best position to make those decision are the parties themselves.
There are several ways to do this. Mediation is one way. A trained, skilled mediator will facilitate communication between the parties and help them reach a resolution. Even if you can’t settle every matter through mediation, you can narrow the issues that must be decided by a judge.
“My spouse has a lawyer, so I don’t need one.”
Wrong again. In Virginia, a lawyer can only ethically represent one person in a divorce. Not both. You should hire your own attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.
“He gets everything because it’s in his name.”
In Virginia, any property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. That means it will be considered in the overall division of property by the court, regardless of whose name is on the title.
Also, debt that is incurred during the marriage may be allocated between the parties. Property division can be complex, but your attorney can discuss it with you and make sure you are fully informed. Another good reason to hire a great attorney.
“We can renegotiate/cancel the agreement if we don’t like it.”
If you and your spouse sign an agreement pertaining to any aspect of your marriage or divorce, you may not be able to change it, even if you didn’t have a lawyer advise you before you signed it.
It doesn’t matter if you think it is unfair or oppressive, agreements become legally binding when you sign them. Never sign an agreement, even an informal one, without discussing it with your attorney first.
Separation Agreement in Virginia
Remember that the choices you make during your separation and divorce will have lasting effects on your life, and the lives of your children.
However, consulting an attorney that focuses on family law and has experience and expertise dealing with these issues will greatly increase your chances of making decisions that lead to the best possible outcome.
Contact GDLWR today to schedule an appointment with one of our expert attorneys!