Category:Family Law


New Virginia Law Allows Protective Orders to Award Pet Possession

Posted on April 23rd, 2014, by Danielle Snead in Family Law. No Comments

Each year several bills are introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates or the Virginia Senate, but only a few get passed and approved into law. One of the bills that was introduced and passed during this year’s session will expand protective orders in Virginia in an interesting way. The bill, House Bill No. 972, effectively grants judges in Virginia the authority to award pet possession as part of protective orders. This new law will go into effect on July 1, 2014.

Under current Virginia law, a person who has been a victim of violence, force, or threat that has resulted in bodily injury or places them in reasonable apprehension of the same, can seek a protective order. As explained in Protective Orders Under Virginia Law, these orders can be sought via a court or a magistrate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on … Read More »


Grandparent Rights in Virginia

Posted on April 14th, 2014, by Ariel Baniowski in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

Grandparents may seek custody or visitation of their grandchildren for any number of reasons. Perhaps one or both parents have become incapacitated, incarcerated, or otherwise unfit to have custody. Or perhaps a grandparent feels that a parent is preventing them from maintaining a health relationship with a grandchild. What recourse does a grandparent have in one of these situations? What are a grandparent’s rights to custody and visitation in Virginia?

Grandparent Custody Rights in Virginia

In Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court established that parents have an inherent constitutional right in rearing their children. The Court stated that the “interests of parents in the care, custody and control of their children… is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized” by the Court. However, this right belongs only to parents—it does not belong to grandparents. … Read More »


The Hidden Danger of Virginia Spousal Support Agreements

Posted on April 7th, 2014, by James Livesay in Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

The Fairfax County Circuit Court recently issued an opinion that sheds light on an important aspect of Virginia divorce law: when divorcing parties include a provision for spousal support in a separation agreement that is incorporated into a divorce decree, that spousal support can only be modified later if the language of the agreement specifically allows for modification.

In Gordon v. Gordon, the parties divorced in 2003 after signing a separation agreement that provided for an award of spousal support (alimony). The Agreement made support non-modifiable, stating:

The husband agrees to pay to the wife, as and for her non-modifiable support and maintenance, the sum of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per month, the initial payment to be made on the first day of the month following execution of this Agreement by both parties, and to continue in consecutive monthly installments on the first … Read More »


Six Things to Keep in Mind Before Signing a Prenup

Posted on April 3rd, 2014, by Julia Jones in Family Law. No Comments

If you are engaged to be married, you may be considering entering into a prenuptial agreement or “prenup” with your spouse-to-be. Although popular recognition of prenuptial agreements has grown thanks to celebrity divorces, prenups are still relatively uncommon in everyday marriages. If you or your soon-to-be spouse are pursuing a prenuptial agreement for your upcoming marriage, here are six things to keep in mind as you move forward:

Remember the purpose. Perhaps this is opinion, but the purpose of a prenuptial agreement is more about simplifying and reducing the costs of a potential divorce, and less about defining the marriage relationship or dictating the behavior of either spouse. Keeping this in mind should help you determine which terms are necessary to include and which terms are not.
Protect what you have now. People often enter into prenuptial agreements to protect the separate assets … Read More »


Virginia Poised to Update Child Support Guidelines

Posted on March 27th, 2014, by Benjamin Carafiol in Family Law. No Comments

The Virginia General Assembly recently passed a bill to update Virginia’s child support guidelines. The bill, HB 933, enjoyed significant support in the legislature—passing the House of Delegates on a vote of 85-10 and the Senate on a 38-0 vote. If the Governor now signs the bill, it will go into law effective July 1, 2014.

HB 933 proposes three significant changes to Virginia Code Section 20-108.2:

Updated Child Support Guidelines. Virginia initially adopted the child support guidelines set forth in Virginia Code Section 20-108.2 in 1988, and while it has made minor changes to portions of this law it has not updated the actual guidelines in the past 26 years. The new law would not simply increase child support amounts across the board; rather, the specific details of an individual’s case could result in higher or lower child support amounts under the revised guidelines.
Removes Set … Read More »


Federal Retirement Division in Virginia Divorce

Posted on March 19th, 2014, by Jonathan McHugh in Family Law. No Comments

When facing divorce, both federal civilian government employees and their spouses need to be familiar with how their retirement accounts are structured, funded, and, ultimately, how they could be affected by a divorce. Most federal civilian employees these days are covered by FERS, the Federal Employee Retirement System. FERS consists of three components: the Basic Benefit Plan, Thrift Savings Plan and Social Security. If you or your spouse are a federal employee, here is what you need to know about the treatment of FERS benefits in Virginia divorce:

BASIC BENEFIT PLAN

The Basic Benefit Plan is the defined benefit plan component of FERS. It is a monthly annuity that employees are eligible to receive upon retirement.

Eligibility: All federal government civilian employees, with very few exceptions, hired after December 31, 1983 are automatically enrolled in the Basic Benefit Plan.

Vesting: In order to be vested in the Basic Benefit Plan, … Read More »


What is the Statute of Limitations on Child Support in Virginia?

Posted on March 18th, 2014, by Danielle Snead in Family Law. No Comments

As explained in Six Ways to Enforce A Child Support Order in Virginia, failure to pay a court-ordered child support obligation can have serious consequences in Virginia. Specifically, an obligor’s failure to pay can result in withholding of their wages, the suspension of professional, recreational or driver’s licenses, liens on their assets, interception of tax returns, restrictions on international travel, or even an order garnishing part of their retirement benefits.

After learning of their options for collecting past due child support, the next question many recipients of support have is: is there a statue of limitations on child support in Virginia?

The Virginia Supreme Court answered this question in 2011, when it ruled in Adcock v. Department of Social Services that child support obligations are set judgments which are subject to a 20-year statute of limitations. In Adcock, the father of a child was obligated, through a … Read More »


How to Survive the Dreaded Discovery Process

Posted on March 14th, 2014, by Matthew Smith in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

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 »


Transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits in Divorce

Posted on March 6th, 2014, by Stephanie Sauer in Divorce, Family Law, Military Divorce. No Comments

Military divorce cases often involve discussion of military retired pay, the Survivor Benefit Plan, and continuation of the spouse’s medical benefits after divorce. A growing topic of discussion in these cases is the servicemember’s education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Increasingly, these benefits are becoming a topic of negotiation in separation agreements between divorcing couples.

The GI Bill can cover all in-state tuition and fees at public degree-granting schools. It also provides for a housing stipend and book allowance while in school. The benefits may be used up to 15 years after the servicemember’s discharge from active duty. Eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits requires a minimum of six years of service. Separate requirements apply for reservists. Servicemembers may transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child, but only after meeting an additional service obligation of four years.

Under 38 U.S.C. § 3020(f)(3), Post-9/11 … Read More »


Virginia Same-Sex Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

Posted on February 15th, 2014, by Ariel Baniowski in Family Law. No Comments

As you may have already heard, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has ruled that Virginia’s voter-approved 2006 Marshall-Newman Amendment (aka the Virginia Marriage Amendment) is unconstitutional. The Amendment modified the Constitution of Virginia to (a) prevent the legal recognition of any union or partnership between same-sex couples, and (b) define “marriage” as exclusively between one man and one woman. In Bostic v. Rainey, decided on February 13, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen found the Virginia ban on same-sex marriage to violate the Due Process and Equal Protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The judge wrote in her opinion that “[g]overnment interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private … Read More »


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