In Virginia a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) is a written agreement that is filed with the court (along with your Final Order of Divorce) which addresses the rights and responsibilities of a married couple while they are living apart, and after the divorce. 

Issues that can be addressed in a PSA include division of assets and debts, child custody and support, visitation schedules, spousal support, etc. 

In Virginia, getting a PSA is typically the first step to getting a simple uncontested divorce. If you have a PSA (and have no minor children) the period of required separation before filing for divorce is only six (6) months, as opposed to one (1) year.  

Some of the other benefits and advantages of obtaining a written PSA from your spouse include:

  • Allowing you and your spouse some time to live apart and see if divorce is actually what they want. As compared to an informal trial separation, a PSA establishes how everything will be handled while the couple is apart, and afterward if you do decide to get divorced.
  • Being able to continue insurance benefits on your spouse’s coverage. If you are considering getting a separation to retain coverage, be sure to check the policy to see if it addresses what happens if a couple separates.
  • Retaining certain military benefits.
  • Continuing to remain married in order to meet the ten year requirement to qualify for certain social security benefits of a spouse.
  • Protecting your financial interests while apart, as assets and debts acquired during a legally recognized separation may be considered separate property. This can be important in Virginia because the date of separation is the cut-off date for acquiring marital assets.
  • Possible tax benefits by continuing to file taxes jointly.
  • If you and your spouse do decide that getting a divorce is the best decision, the separation agreement will be incorporated into the Final Order of Divorce, and become an enforceable court order. 

Therefore, you should treat the separation agreement the same way you would a strict contract. Don’t agree to anything that you can’t live with.