You wake up to find a note from your spouse on the kitchen table. It tells you that they’re done with the marriage, they’re leaving and they’re not coming back. Now what? Can you seek a divorce?

Technically, you are still married. You can get a divorce on the grounds of desertion or abandonment, however. That enables you to legally end the marriage so that you can move forward with your life — even if it’s very clear that the marriage is, for all intents and purposes, already over.

There are a few things you should know. If your spouse claims that you did something to make them leave — like abusing them — then that changes everything. It’s not desertion in the law’s eyes if they had reason to leave. They may even attempt to seek criminal proceedings against you.

The next thing that you should know if that desertion is not the same as mutually agreeing to part ways. For instance, if you and your spouse had a conversation about taking some time apart and they decided to do it, you can’t claim they abandoned you. Couples often take time apart to see if they can make the marriage work or if they need to get divorced.

Now, these issues do not apply in the example laid out above, but it’s still important to know where you stand and how the law works. Divorce laws are different in all states. You must know the specifics of the law in Virginia so that you can also know what to do to legally end your marriage.