In Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, being separated from one’s spouse starts the clock running to be able to obtain a no-fault divorce. But the kind of “separation” that is required in order to establish the grounds for a no-fault divorce depends on the jurisdiction where you live.
Maryland: In order to obtain a no-fault divorce, a couple cannot live together under the same roof. One person must leave the home. Once the separation period begins, in order to remain separated, spouses may not live under the same roof, even for one night.
District of Columbia: In the District of Columbia, spouses can be separated even if they live in the same home, as long as they sleep in separate bedrooms and pursue separate lives. Of course, moving out is also an option for establishing separation.
Virginia: In most places in Virginia, although you can be separated while living under the same roof, in essence, you and your spouse must be unfriendly housemates – you must occupy separate bedrooms, share no meals together, perform no chores for one other, and attend no social functions together. You may not hold yourselves out to the public as husband and wife.
One common factor between Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, is that you will not be considered separated from your spouse if you are engaging in sexual relations with him or her.
Even if you live in a jurisdiction where you and your spouse can be separated in the same home, in practice living separately so close together can be difficult for many couples. From a psychological perspective, moving out of the home in order to begin your separation period can be a relief – and a wake-up call if your spouse is in denial about the state of your marriage. If the time comes, consult with your attorney to decide which option is best for your situation.