As the calendar turns to September and football season begins anew, children all over the country have returned to school. For them, the carefree days of summer give way to the structured rigors of academic pursuits. But their parents may enjoy the respite that school hours provide.
With the start of a new school year upon us, perhaps it’s a good time to revisit some of the most contentious issues that separated or divorced parents grapple with when their children are in school.
Information Sharing. A classic area of animosity involves the use of children as a conduit for information between parents, which should generally be a no-no. This places your child squarely between you and your ex-spouse, and will lead to unintended negative consequences. There should be no need for Jimmy to tell mom about the parent-teacher conference next week, because … Read More »
There was a time when divorce was never spoken about on television or in pop culture. In 1962, “The Lucy Show” became the first program to prominently feature the character of a divorced woman (with the character of Lucy’s housemate, divorcée Vivian Bagley).
Today, popular dramas like “The Good Wife” and “Mad Men” feature main characters who are divorced, and any stigma that once existed has disappeared. Reality programs like “The Real Housewives” and “Divorce Court” allow the masses to ogle the “private” lives of those seeking fame but settling for 15 minutes of uncomfortable notoriety.
Now comes a new twist on the portrayal of divorce on television: “Untying the Knot,” which premieres on the Bravo network on June 4th at 10:00 p.m., starring New Jersey matrimonial attorney Vikki Ziegler, along with “appraisal experts” Mark and Michael Millea.
Each episode … Read More »
Ever wonder whether the era of online dating has led to more separations and divorces? According to a recent survey of the nation’s top divorce attorneys, the answer is yes. Fifty-nine percent of respondents in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) have seen an increase in the number of cases using evidence from dating websites during the past three years.
Online dating contributes to divorce rates, but is also assisting divorce lawyers across the country in building their cases with easy-to-obtain evidence that can become critical to litigation outcomes.
Of those divorce attorneys surveyed, 64% cited Match.com as a primary source, with eHarmony.com running a distant second at 9%. Fifty-seven percent of AAML respondents singled out the “Relationship Status” listed by users as the most common piece of evidence utilized in their divorce cases, while 15% noted Salary and 7% listed … Read More »
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 »