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Divorce process in Virginia requires formal separation first

Ending a marriage is a big step that needs careful consideration. The laws of Virginia require couples to spend some time apart to make sure a divorce is what they want. Before the divorce process can be finalized, spouses must live apart for six months. If they have children, divorcing parents must live separately for at least one year. 

The separation serves as a period during which couples can resolve issues, and drafting a separation agreement -- though not required -- can protect both spouses. Such an agreement can state who will be responsible for mortgage payments and other debts. If they decide to keep the family home, the spouse who will live there can use this time to refinance the property and register it in his or her name as part of the divorce settlement. This agreement can also specify the ownership of assets acquired during the separation period.

There will be child-related issues to resolve, such as custody and parenting time. They can draft a schedule and test different versions. By the end of the separation period, a workable parenting schedule can form part of the divorce agreement. This will also prevent one parent from withholding parenting time. The separation agreement can also specify who will be responsible for the financial needs of the children.

A separation agreement, if completed, can ultimately form the basis of a divorce settlement, and taking care to draft it correctly is vital. For that reason, many divorcing spouses in Virginia utilize the skills of an experienced divorce attorney to provide valuable support and guidance throughout the divorce process. A lawyer can also explain the laws related to the relocation of one spouse during that period.

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