The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2017, signed into law in December 2016, drastically changes the way military retired pay can be divided in divorce cases. The new NDAA made major changes to the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which is the federal law enacted in 1982 that allowed states to divide military retired pay as marital property in divorce.
The original USFSPA did not provide for any particular division of a servicemember’s military retired pay. Rather, each state was able to develop methods of dividing military retired pay based on their existing state laws concerning division of property in divorce.
Virginia, as an equitable distribution state, awarded a former spouse a portion of the “marital share” of the servicemember’s retired pay. The marital share was a fraction of the total retired pay, with the numerator being the creditable service … Read More »
Postnuptial Agreements in Virginia
Every year, it seems that more and more individuals are seeking prenuptial agreements. What was once a tool used only by the rich and famous has increasingly become a mainstay of domestic relations law. Statistically, prenuptial (“existing or occurring before marriage”) agreements, or “prenups,” are used more often by individuals who have been married before or are getting married for the first time later in life. They are often used to protect a separately-owned business or to contractually limit (or eliminate) a spousal support obligation to the other party. But what if you’re ten years into a marriage and want to start a business? Or you decide to change careers to a more lucrative field? Can you still get the advantages of a prenup after marriage?
The short answer is “yes.” The Virginia Premarital Agreement Act is part of … Read More »
In many divorce cases, the most valuable asset to be divided is a pension. Pensions, or “defined benefit plans,” pay retirees a specified recurring benefit upon retirement that the retiree receives for life. Examples of defined benefit plans are the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Virginia Retirement System (VRS), and military retirement benefits. Two main characteristics of pensions make them so valuable: first, the payments received can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the life of the retiree; and second, the pension pays its benefits in regular (usually monthly) intervals, creating a guaranteed stream of income for the recipient.
Another feature of defined benefit plans is that they only provide the benefit to the retiree—when the retiree passes away, all benefits cease. This is generally of no concern to a retiree in a divorce proceeding. But a former spouse could … Read More »
Efforts to Restrict Marriage of Minors Advance Through Virginia Legislature
Many spouses going through separation and divorce lament that the laws of Virginia make it much easier to get married than they do to get divorced. A divorce proceeding requires a reason to want to end the marriage and in most cases the spouses must be separated for more than a year before their divorce can be finalized. This leads to the not-uncommon situation where spouses must live separately for longer than they were married before getting their divorce!
In contrast, to get married in Virginia, two eligible parties must only obtain a marriage license and perform a ceremony. There are no required blood tests or number or witnesses to validate a marriage. The age requirement for marriage in Virginia is sixteen for both parties. However, if either party is under eighteen, … Read More »
In divorce cases, the marriage is officially and legally ended when the judge signs the order dissolving the legal bonds of matrimony. For a large number of people, however, a divorce does not mean the severing of all ties with their now ex-spouse. There are some things that will continue to bind many divorced couples together beyond their marriage vows. The immediate example that springs to mind is children. Issues of custody, visitation or child support can come up as often as the needs of a child may change. Eventually, however, children grow up—and though divorced parents will always be linked together through the children they share, there will no longer be the potential of ongoing litigation.
There is one issue, however, that can link former spouses together for the rest of their natural lives: spousal support.
In Virginia, spousal support may be … Read More »
Each year, the Virginia legislature considers numerous proposed updates to Virginia family law. These updates range from universally significant changes such as last year’s revised child support guidelines (updated for the first time in nearly thirty years), to the loosened notice requirements for finalizing uncontested divorces, to addressing the perhaps mundane question of whether or not courts should consolidate juvenile cases under single case numbers.
That trend has continued into 2015, with the legislature passing—and Governor McAuliffe signing into law— updated provisions concerning the amount of health insurance cost to be included in calculating child support in Virginia.
Virginia’s child support guidelines provide courts a method for determining child support based on each parent’s income, the support by either parent of “other children” (such as by prior marriages), day care expenses and health care costs. Under the new law, effective July 1, 2015, for purposes of child support the health … Read More »
Concerns Over Shariah Law Threaten International Child Support Treaty
A few years ago, we covered federal action on the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. Specifically, I wrote about how the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed key language implementing the Hague Convention in the International Child Support Recovery Act of 2012. While that bill did not ultimately become law, a new issue has recently arisen that jeopardizes U.S. participation in the Hague Convention itself.
As the 2015 session of the Idaho legislature approached closing, the Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee of the Idaho House of Representatives voted to kill an update to Idaho’s version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. The update would have brought child support enforcement methods in Idaho into alignment with the terms of the Hague Convention. The measure had passed the … Read More »
Appeals Filed By Both Sides
Previously on this Blog, Livesay & Myers, P.C. senior associate Matthew Smith explained the decision rendered in the divorce action between Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm and his now-ex-wife, Sue Ann Arnall. This case was, and is, noteworthy because the decision awarded Ms. Hamm almost one billion dollars ($955,481,842, to be precise) for her share of the marital estate. If the trial court’s decision stands, this will be one of the largest divorce settlements of all time. The highest recorded settlement to date was for the divorce of Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev ($4.5 billion dollars).
However, at present both parties to this proceeding have filed appeals to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. Oklahoma, like Virginia, is an equitable distribution jurisdiction, where the court determines the extent of the marital property, excludes certain assets as the separate … Read More »
Any person taken to court has certain rights that must be respected. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution require that neither the federal government nor individual states deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without “due process of law.” At its most fundamental level, due process requires the defendant be served with notice that a case has been filed against them, and given the opportunity to appear before the court to defend themselves.
The increasing mobility of individuals in our society has added complexity to the issues of due process. Pioneers took six months to travel across the country on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, risking disease and death along the way. Today, someone can load up their belongings in a U-Haul truck and relocate across the entire country in about a week. This extreme freedom and ease … Read More »
The juvenile and domestic relations district courts (“J&DR courts”) in the Commonwealth of Virginia have jurisdiction over cases to determine child custody and visitation. While this jurisdiction is “concurrent” with the circuit courts (meaning either court can hear such a case), a vast majority of custody disputes begin—and end—in J&DR courts. Parties to custody cases before a J&DR court do retain the automatic right to appeal any decision to the circuit court for a brand new trial, meaning that parents could potentially have to go through a complete custody trial not once, but twice, before being able to move on with their lives.
This reason is one among many that could lead parties to resolve a custody battle through a negotiated agreement. But the last thing a parent wants to face is the other parent backing out of an agreed-upon custody arrangement, … Read More »