As a family law attorney, I focus on resolving the problems that arise from the breakdown of a marriage. I am referring to the legal issues of custody, visitation, support, and equitable distribution, all of which must be addressed as part of any divorce case involving minor children. Nonetheless, when clients call on me for advice, often their questions focus not strictly on legal issues, but on how to deal with the more practical consequences of divorce. Frequently among them, where there are minor children, is the question of how one should go about speaking to a child about divorce.
Although there is no one best way to break the news to a child, here are five tips for talking to your son or daughter about divorce:
Try to focus on what will be immediately relevant and understandable to your child. In … Read More »
If you have been accused of domestic violence, you should be aware that the issuance of a civil protective order order can, and very well may, affect your right to purchase, possess or transport a firearm in Virginia.
Federal Law Regarding Firearms and Domestic Violence
The best known restriction is found in federal law, which prohibits you from possessing, shipping, transporting, or receiving any firearm, if four conditions are met:
a protective order has been issued against you.
the protective order pertains to your “intimate partner” or the child of such “intimate partner.” The term “intimate partner” is defined to include a spouse, former spouse, person with whom you have a child or have cohabited, but not a girlfriend or boyfriend with whom you have not cohabited.
the protective order was issued after an evidentiary hearing, and you had notice and an opportunity to … Read More »
Most young couples marry in full anticipation of growing old together. But life is complicated. Sometimes, as couples grow older, they grow apart rather than together. And, sometimes, they divorce. Among the many things that must be considered in a divorce, it is important to think about the future—including retirement in general, and Social Security benefits in particular.
What effect, if any, does divorce have on your Social Security benefits?
In order to answer this question, first we must consider the benefits to which married persons are entitled under Social Security. Married persons have the right to apply for:
benefits based on their own contributions to Social Security over their lifetimes;
spousal benefits based on their spouse’s contributions to Social Security, so long as they are at least 62 years of age and their spouse is receiving (or is eligible to receive) … Read More »
It is a common story. You get married. You and your new husband or wife buy a beautiful new home. Everything is grand.
But then everything, gradually, over time, becomes… less grand, downright miserable, in fact. You separate. You contemplate divorce. You visit an attorney.
The question arises: what happens to the money that you (or your spouse) used to make the down payment? What happens to that money when you divorce?
There is a general rule that applies to this scenario under Virginia law. Just as background, real estate, when purchased during the marriage, is, by default under Virginia law, marital property regardless of how the real estate is titled. That is, the real estate can be titled in both of your names or solely or in the name of one party. It makes no difference to the question of whether or … Read More »
Your marriage has broken down. You are the victim of an unloving relationship, verbal abuse, physical violence, or infidelity. You are getting divorced. Yet, despite all that has happened, there your spouse remains, in the marital residence, despite your repeated requests that he or she leave.
You have consulted with an attorney, who advises that so long as your spouse remains in the residence, your legal options are limited in certain respects. Namely, a court is unlikely to issue a custody, visitation or child support order while the parties are still living together. And, by living together, you are potentially endangering any suit for adultery against your spouse under Virginia law.
What do you do?
There is no one answer to this question. There are several ways to get your spouse to leave, depending on the facts of your case.
Seek a Protective Order. … Read More »
A problem one occasionally encounters in divorce practice is the spouse who is unwilling, out of selfishness or greed, to disclose his or her actual assets and earnings. Where a spouse is being dishonest, it is necessary to resort to alternative measures to uncover this information.
The motivation for a spouse to lie may seem obvious. Some spouses believe that the income they earn should belong solely to them, especially where that person has his or her own business or receives income from a family source, such as a trust. By hiding assets or deferring income, a spouse can reduce his or her child support, spousal support, and the share of marital property that would have to otherwise be equitably divided between the parties.
You cannot always tell for sure whether your spouse is lying. However, certain circumstances raise good reason to … Read More »
On June 3rd, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States reviewed a provision of Virginia law and declared it invalid as applied, in the case of Hillman v. Maretta.
The case had to do with the distribution of life insurance proceeds for federal government employees enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program.
The facts were undisputed. A federal government employee by the name of Warren Hillman filed a Designation of Beneficiary with FEGLI listing his wife as the beneficiary. Mr. Hillman and his wife later divorced, and Mr. Hillman remarried, but his new wife was never designated as a FEGLI beneficiary. When Mr. Hillman died, Judy Maretta, the ex-wife, collected the FEGLI proceeds and was promptly sued in state court by Mr. Hillman’s widow Ms. Jacqueline Hillman.
At issue in the state court action and its appeals was the … Read More »
If you have reviewed the military divorce sections of our website and blog, you should be familiar with the basics of the division of military retired pay pursuant to a divorce in Virginia. In short:
Your disposable retired pay, meaning your gross military retired pay minus any deductions for disability, is divisible under both federal and state law.
Under Virginia law, your spouse can receive up to fifty percent of the “marital share” of your retired pay, the marital share being defined as the portion that was earned during the marriage before separation.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (“DFAS”) can pay your spouse his or her portion of your military retired pay directly where your marriage overlapped with 10 years or more of your military service.
What we have not discussed in detail is how you can structure your military retired pay award … Read More »
Virginia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court has the authority in your divorce suit to classify the property of the parties as separate, marital or hybrid, to distribute any jointly owned marital property between the parties, and to grant a monetary award to either party to ensure that the division of marital property is fair and equitable.
The law of equitable distribution is complex, and not every detail will be addressed in this blog post. The purpose of this post is instead to set forth a few simple principles to help you determine what property will be off-limits to your spouse in your divorce case. In other words, what do you get to keep? What is your sole, separate property not subject to equitable distribution?
Generally speaking, the following kinds of property will be classified as separate in Virginia:
Property … Read More »
Suppose you live in Woodbridge or Manassas, and are a stay at home parent, a military spouse, or perhaps you work but just happen to make much less money than your spouse. Suddenly, your spouse declares that he or she wants a divorce. Your spouse wants to walk away from the marriage, the house, and the marital debts, to live on their own. But you cannot afford to pay the mortgage, your bills, or your debts all on your own. Once your spouse leaves, the creditors are at the door. The house is facing foreclosure. What do you do?
The short answer is: seek pendente lite (temporary) support from your spouse from the courts of Prince William County.
Please note: Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park all share a combined court system, so whether you are a resident of Woodbridge, Lake … Read More »