In the course of your divorce or custody litigation, you may be required to answer written questions under oath (Interrogatories), provide copies of various documents that are relevant to your case (Requests for Production of Documents), and admit or deny various allegations from your spouse (Requests for Admissions). Along with depositions and subpoenas, this process is collectively referred to as “discovery.” And it’s no fun.
The purpose of discovery is to enable each party to determine the facts of the case and ascertain what evidence may be available for use at trial or to effect a settlement. This prevents a “trial by ambush,” with secret witnesses and exhibits being presented without advanced notice. Responding to discovery requests is not optional, and failure to answer fully and truthfully can result in punishment by the court. Discovery can easily become a boondoggle for … Read More »
In the course of almost a decade practicing family law in Virginia, I’ve been able to identify some of the best and worst practices in the field. Four times out of five, if I’m familiar with opposing counsel in a case of mine, I’ll know how the case will proceed. After a while you can identify the attorneys who have their clients’ best interests constantly in mind, and the ones who are lazy or (far worse) less than honest and have the tendency to “milk” a case when simple solutions exist. Luckily these attorneys make up only a narrow sliver of our practice area, but their behavior can give us all a bad name.
Attorneys matter, and who you and your spouse select will have an enormous impact on the way your divorce plays out, for better or worse. Here are … Read More »
The choice of a family law attorney is always very personal. Given the subject matter, you’ll want to work with someone you can trust, who is nonjudgmental and willing to listen and learn about your circumstances. Considering what may be at stake, your choice of lawyer should be experienced, hard-working and committed, but also willing to find ways to save you money and help you move on as soon as is practical. From my experience, here are three questions that every potential client should have answered before making a significant financial commitment to a custody or divorce attorney:
Will you work as hard to settle my case as you will to try it? At first, this may seem unusual. Working hard to settle means caving in, right? Doesn’t extending an olive branch equate to surrender? Far from it. Contrary to popular … Read More »
If you have a child custody or visitation dispute on your hands, you’ll want to be aware of what elements the court will consider in making a determination. Contrary to popular belief, courts no longer have legal justification to favor the mother over the father. Instead, Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 provides a list of factors that courts must weigh before ruling on what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interests of a child.
From my experience, these are the six most important factors considered by Virginia courts in deciding custody and visitation cases:
The Status Quo. The power of the status quo can’t be overstated. If one party stays in the marital home with the children, they will start with a leg up. They can argue that the children are comfortable in a familiar environment, with established neighborhood friends nearby and … Read More »
So you’re getting divorced and you have kids. If they are of a certain age, chances are good that they already know plenty about the reasons for the dissolution of your marriage. No matter how you’ve tried to shield them from it, they have lived it too. They probably hear the fights or feel the tension when you and your spouse are in the same room. And maybe they have already begun to experience the routine-shattering effects of a shared custodial schedule or divorce-related relocation.
We know that kids are affected by divorce, and that to a certain extent, those effects can’t be avoided. But how can we minimize them and put our children on the pathway to a “new normal”? Here are four do’s and don’ts to put the children first and limit the collateral damage in your divorce:
Don’t speak … Read More »
Seemingly every week, we hear the depressing news of another marital relationship on the rocks. Whether it involves family, friends or just celebrity gossip (this week, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi Deng are splitting), divorce has become an all-too-familiar part of modern American life. And although the divorce rate has dropped each decade in the past 40 years, roughly one-third of first marriages are still destined for failure (depending upon how the rate is calculated).
So what’s causing all of these divorces? I have spent my entire career in family law, and have witnessed countless ruined marriages up close and personal. Over time, I’ve been able to gain some perspective on the most common reasons for divorce. As I see it, there are four major causes, with the first one being far more important than the other … Read More »
If a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed by the court in your custody case in Virginia, what do you need to know? First of all, the GAL is an independent operator on behalf of the children’s best interests. They are like a “roving judge” in your case, empowered to interview parents, children, third parties, and to observe the home environment. They eventually report back to the judge at trial with their findings and recommendations.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines a GAL as “a guardian, usually a lawyer, appointed by the court to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of an incompetent or minor party.” Rule 8:6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia describes the role of GALs as follows:
The role of counsel for a child is the representation of the child’s legitimate interests. When appointed for … Read More »
When a couple has the misfortune of proceeding toward divorce, often the marital home is the most valuable property to address. There are many things to consider when navigating this process in Virginia, and here are a few of the most important questions that must be answered.
How is the home titled and who is listed on the mortgage?
This will help to determine the options that are available for you. For example, if both parties are listed on the mortgage, and if one wants to keep the home, he or she will need to qualify for a refinance to remove the other’s name and take on the debt in full. And if the home is jointly titled, the party relinquishing it will need to execute a quitclaim need, special warranty deed or general warranty deed for the other.
Is the home marital, … Read More »
If you have a hearing or trial scheduled in Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Courthouse (called the “Jennings Judicial Center”) may at first seem overwhelming. The busiest courthouse in the Commonwealth of Virginia sees approximately 20,000 people enter on a weekly basis, and the enormous, $120 million expansion, which was completed in 2008, only adds to the potential for intimidation.
When arriving, it’s important to note that the public parking garage is a 5-10 minute walk to the main entrance. Long lines will often develop at the security checkpoint that everyone must traverse, so be sure to arrive early. An information desk is available past the security area to provide further assistance.
For cases in family law, which is my area of practice, the Circuit Courtrooms are located on the fourth and fifth floors, and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Courtrooms … Read More »
Many clients come to me expecting the worst from their spouses during the divorce process. They talk about how their husbands or wives will never settle, how they’re out for blood, and how they’ll stop at nothing to make the process as miserable as possible for everyone involved.
As a result of this fear, whether founded or not, many people want to begin their divorce case by taking overly aggressive and unnecessary actions that tend to diminish the possibility of settlement. I think part of an attorney’s job is to dissuade clients from embarking down that road unless it’s necessary to do so.
That’s not to say that anyone should roll over. There are clearly cases where the parties are playing a zero-sum game, and there are certainly parties to a divorce (and even family lawyers, unfortunately) who have no interest in … Read More »