Archive | February 2012

Separation Anxiety: Preparing for Divorce


"more terns of endearment" by author

Getting a no-fault (uncontested) divorce sounds simple, but in practice it is not an easy undertaking.  Besides likely already being in a fragile emotional state, there are conditions to be met and preparations to be made.

The first set of basic requirements are time and space.  In DC, you need to be living separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year prior to filing your divorce complaint (papers).  Virginia’s time is one year if you have children from the marriage, but only six months if you don’t have kids.  “Separate and apart” means just that — you are not living together as husband and wife — which means (but is not limited to) having separate living arrangements, not going out together for social engagements or worship services, paying separately for expenses and meals,  and (possibly most importantly) having absolutely no sexual relations.  This condition must be corroborated in court through testimony of a witness, who can ideally be a friend who has seen your lives evolve after the initial separation.

Also noteworthy is that in Virginia it is possible to live separate and apart in the marital home, though it is difficult to prove in court proceedings and requires much time, preparation, and cooperation between the parties.

The other main element is the property and settlement agreement (PSA).  If you have any marital property, it should be divided, set in writing, and absolutely agreed to before filing anything with the court.  Oral agreements are not enough — the court will incorporate the PSA into the final divorce decree at the end of the process, so be sure it’s accurate and complete.

Preparing for divorce requires patience and diligence, either of which may be in short supply as emotions run high. While it may seem daunting at the beginning, it is important to follow through all the requirements to the letter, otherwise you risk running into unnecessary delays and undue emotional hardship.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

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The Real Marriage Revolution


"Rage Against The Man II" by author

As of this writing, seven states (CT, IA, NH, MA, NY and VT) and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing same-sex marriage.  Gov. Christine Gregoire just signed a bill legalizing it in Washington, which will start recognizing same-sex unions in June, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley did the same this past week.  Advocates are steadily making inroads, though 29 states prohibit it by constitutional fiat and 12 others through statute, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996, prohibits the federal government  from recognizing same-sex unions.  Opponents continue to decry it as a threat to the institution of “traditional” marriage. There have been few studies on that subject, and, to be sure, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage (MA) did so only in 2004, but early trends suggest that there have been little or no negative effects on the overall divorce rate.

In 2010, New York made news by becoming the last state to legalize divorce by consent, a.k.a. no-fault or uncontested divorce. Starting with Oklahoma in 1953, each of the other 49 states passed no-fault divorce statutes. Prior to 1953, the only way to get a divorce was showing a court that there were fault grounds to dissolve a marriage, such as abandonment, abuse, adultery or fraud. Absent a real problem (or mutual perjury), it was difficult to end a marriage. But after more states began allowing uncontested divorce in the 1960s, divorce rates started to increase before leveling off by the turn of the century.

One can argue the merits of allowing divorce without fault, whether it be the ease of getting out of unhappy or abusive marriages or curbing institutionalized perjury. The fact remains that divorce rates were widely affected simply by making easier to get one, and that it remains to be seen if the legalization of gay unions will have any effect at all.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.