Category:Family Law


Child Preference in Virginia Custody and Visitation Cases

Posted on August 20th, 2014, by Jonathan McHugh in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

When a couple decides to separate and pursue a divorce, there are countless questions and issues that can arise. However, there are also some difficult questions that await the teenage child or children of divorcing parents. Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is: “Who do I want live with after Mom and Dad are divorced?” The answer to this question can go a long way towards determining the final custody and visitation arrangement for that child.

In making a custody or visitation determination, a Virginia court will consider what is in the best interests of the child, according to the factors laid out in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. One of the most important factors listed in that code section is: “The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience … Read More »


Legal vs. Physical Custody in Virginia: What’s the Difference?

Posted on August 13th, 2014, by Carolyn Eaton in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

Every parent involved in a child custody dispute is concerned about the kind of custody and visitation arrangement that will result. Regardless of whether the court decides custody or the parents reach an agreement which is then approved by the court, there are two aspects of custody that must be addressed in every case: legal custody and physical custody.

In Virginia, one possible custody option is one parent being awarded sole legal custody and sole physical custody, with a visitation schedule for the other parent. An alternative to that “sole custody” arrangement would be “joint custody.”

Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 defines joint custody as follows:

joint legal custody, where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent;
joint … Read More »


Family Care Plans and Custody Orders in Virginia

Posted on August 12th, 2014, by Anneshia Miller Grant in Custody, Family Law, Military Divorce. No Comments

A Family Care Plan (FCP) is a document that certain active duty or reserve servicemembers, and some DOD civilians, are required by the Department of Defense to maintain in order to ensure that their children (and incapacitated parents) are taken care of if they are called away to service.

Any person required by DOD Instruction 1342.19 to maintain a Family Care Plan must do so in a certain amount of time. Other than the requirements with respect to timely filing, the instructions are fairly broad as to what can and should be included in the FCP.

At a minimum, a Family Care Plan allows the military member to designate another party to care for his or her child during any period where the member is unavailable due to military service obligations.

Though the DOD requires this plan of action and files it in each servicemember’s … Read More »


Spousal Support Reservations in Virginia

Posted on August 11th, 2014, by Julia Jones in Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

Virginia Code Section 20-107.1 provides that pursuant to a divorce, a court may reserve the right of a party to receive spousal support in the future. Furthermore, “in any case so reserved, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the reservation will continue for a period equal to 50 percent of the length of time between the date of marriage and the date of separation. Once granted, the duration of such reservation shall not be subject to modification.”

What does this mean? This means that in lieu of a spousal support award, or in addition to a spousal support award, a Virginia court can grant a reservation for one or both parties to seek additional spousal support from the other in the future.

Why would a spouse not elect to immediately pursue his or her reservation? Because it’s not as simple as … Read More »


Where Should You File Your Family Law Case?

Posted on July 28th, 2014, by Ariel Baniowski in Custody, Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

The Difference Between Jurisdiction and Venue

Jurisdiction and venue are two very different legal terms that are often, and wrongly, used interchangeably.

Jurisdiction is the power of a court to adjudicate a case upon the merits and dispose of it as justice may require. Litigants cannot bestow this power on the court by waiver or consent; jurisdiction can only be granted to a court by constitution or legislation. In Virginia, a court has jurisdiction over a family law case if it has (1) jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) jurisdiction over the person, and (3) jurisdiction to render the specific relief sought. For example, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-96, the circuit courts in Virginia have jurisdiction over suits for annulment, divorce, separate maintenance, and for affirming marriages.

In contrast, venue is the place where the power to adjudicate a controversy is exercised, and it can be waived … Read More »


How to Lock in Your Custody Agreement and Avoid an Appeal

Posted on July 24th, 2014, by Benjamin Carafiol in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

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 »


Military Deployment and Child Custody in Virginia

Posted on July 10th, 2014, by Anneshia Miller Grant in Custody, Family Law, Military Divorce. No Comments

“Im Deploying! How does that affect my custodial or visitation rights to my child?”

Deploying is a unique and difficult fact of life for most every military family. For those parents involved in a custody or visitation dispute, deployment can be an even more stressful event, as the deploying parent must also be concerned with arrangements for his or her child during the required absence.

Given that Virginia has the second largest military population in the United States, it is not surprising that in 2008 the Virginia legislature addressed the concerns of deploying parents with a statutory scheme designed to protect the custodial or visitation rights of our men and women in uniform.

The Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act, incorporated into Virginia Code Sections 20-124.7 through 20-124.10, defines who is considered to be a deploying parent, including not only active duty but … Read More »


How to Protect Yourself as the Breadwinning Spouse

Posted on June 26th, 2014, by Julia Jones in Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

Divorce can be financially difficult for both parties, particularly in today’s economy. If you are the breadwinning spouse, you may face special difficulties—which include but are not limited to the following:

Your spouse doesn’t (or refuses to) work, so you may be looking at higher amounts of spousal support and child support.
Your name is tied to all of the marital debts because your spouse doesn’t have good credit.
You’re stuck paying everything: a mortgage, two car payments, and massive credit card debt that is more than you can afford.
Your spouse recklessly increases your debt, and only you are held responsible.
Your spouse has requested pendente lite support and attorney’s fees to help him or her carry on the divorce lawsuit.

Unfortunately, these are examples of some of the pitfalls that come with being the breadwinning spouse. Here are four tips to help protect yourself before, during … Read More »


Spousal Support Duration in Virginia

Posted on June 25th, 2014, by Danielle Snead in Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

Among the most common questions for many people facing divorce are those relating to spousal support: will the court order spousal support? If so, how much—and for how long? As explained in Is It Really Cheaper To Keep Her Or (Him)?, both local guidelines and the Virginia Code provide guidance on how trial courts are to go about determining the amount and duration of support. However, even with local guidelines and the factors stated in Virginia Code Section 20-107.1, awards of support vary greatly case by case. Nevertheless, the Virginia Court of Appeals recently reiterated the importance of the Code factors, in the Fairfax County divorce case Cleary v. Cleary.

The parties in Cleary were married for 17 years and had three children during the marriage. Both parties were employed, with the husband working as a financial advisor and the wife working as … Read More »


Property Settlement Agreements and College Expenses

Posted on June 24th, 2014, by Jonathan McHugh in Family Law. No Comments

The importance of education and obtaining a college degree has grown over the years, to the point where most, if not all, parents make it one of their highest priorities when raising their children. Given the rising costs of attending college, in some instances reaching in excess of $50,000 per year, figuring out how to pay for a child’s education can be a challenge. That challenge is heightened when parents find themselves separated or pursuing a divorce.

When a Virginia Court enters an order regarding child support, the parties’ legal obligation usually ends when the child or children reach the age of 18. However, Virginia Code Section 20-124.2(C) provides that any child support order shall include language ordering parents to support any child who is over the age of 18 who is (i) a full-time high school student, (ii) not self-supporting, and (iii) living in the … Read More »


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