For years, Virginia circuit courts were split on the question of who gets the engagement ring after a breakup in Virginia. Some courts held that the engagement ring could not be recovered because such claims are barred under Virginia Code § 8.01-220. Known as the “heart balm” statute, that code section bars civil actions for breach of promise to marry (along with civil actions for alienation of affection, criminal conversation and seduction). However, other courts held that the engagement ring could be recovered because the party seeking to recover the ring is not seeking damages due to a broken promise to marry, but rather is asking for the return of a conditional gift, the condition being the marriage. Therefore, these courts held, when the engagement breaks off, the condition is not satisfied and thus the gift (the ring) should be returned.
The Virginia Supreme … Read More »
Divorce is an emotional and overwhelming time in a person’s life. If you do not enter the divorce with the necessary financial information, the process may be even more overwhelming than anticipated. By taking certain actions at the start of the divorce process, you can protect yourself from future surprises, and potentially avoid a great deal of stress later on. Here are four financial steps you should consider taking before divorce:
1. Obtain Financial Documents
If you do not keep good financial records or have limited to no access to your financial documents, now would be the time to gather and retain copies of these documents. These documents should include: tax returns, checking, savings, and bank statements; investment statements, retirement account statements, and other documents that address any sources of your or your spouse’s income. Try to gather all of these financial documents for the last three to … Read More »
In most cases, when one thinks of adoption, they imagine a child being taken into a loving “forever” home. Virginia law, however, allows for the adoption of an adult, though specific circumstances must apply. For instance, a stepparent may adopt an adult stepchild if that stepparent has stood “in loco parentis” to the child for at least three months. Standing “in loco parentis” means standing “in place of a parent.”
In addition, a close relative of an adult may institute proceedings for the adoption. Under the applicable Virginia Code § 63.2-1242.1, a close relative is defined as a “grandparent, great-grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or adult great uncle or great aunt.”
The Virginia Code also permits a petitioner to adopt an adult if the person to be adopted is the birth child of the petitioner … Read More »
Prospective parents, when considering their options, may choose the international adoption route. When deciding whether or not this option is best for your family, it is important to have an idea what that process will look like. Some of the rules will differ depending upon whether you chose to adopt from a Hague or non-Hague convention country. The process will also vary based on the specific country from which you choose to adopt. What follows here is just a general overview of the international adoption process.
The Hague Convention, by the way, is an international agreement that sets forth common standards to protect children subject to an international adoption. If you are a United States citizen residing in the United States, and seek to adopt a child residing in another country subject to the Hague Convention, you will have to comply … Read More »
Sole vs. Split vs. Shared Child Support Guidelines
Virginia law recognizes the obligation of parents to support their children financially, and the Virginia child support guidelines account for that fact. The guidelines take into account the gross incomes of the parties, health insurance expenses incurred for the children, work-related childcare costs, and support of other children who were not born between the parties. Because both parents are financially responsible to and for their children, each parent is made responsible for a certain percentage of the whole child support amount determined under the guidelines, with the whole child support amount equaling what the parents would be able to provide for the children in the event the family still resided in one household.
Virginia has different child support guidelines for sole, split and shared custody arrangements. Each guideline is different and takes into account a … Read More »
A question I frequently receive from family law clients or potential clients is: “the other party has violated our court order—so what can I do about it?”
When one party violates a previous order from a Virginia court, the other party has the opportunity to petition the court for enforcement of the order. In Virginia, this is called a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause. At the Show Cause hearing, the judge will give the person alleged to be in violation an opportunity to defend their actions, and present evidence as to why they may have violated the court order. If the court is not satisfied by that evidence or explanation, it may hold the violating party in contempt and may issue a punishment based on the type and severity of the violation.
Punishments may be civil or criminal, and will vary depending on … Read More »
In Virginia, courts are required to base custody and visitation determinations on the best interests of the child. The specific factors courts should consider in determining what is in a child’s best interests are set forth in Virginia Code § 20-124.3. One of these factors is:
“[t]he propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child.”
This factor generally appears in custody and visitation cases where one or both parents is speaking negatively about the other parent around the child, or overtly barring access to the child without cause. (Speaking negatively about the other parent “around the child” can include denigration of the other parent on social media.)
This factor also comes into play when the primary … Read More »
Are you separated from your spouse, or otherwise undergoing marital difficulties? If so, you may find yourself wondering whether your spouse can disinherit you. In Virginia, the short answer is no. Virginia law protects surviving spouses from being disinherited by allowing the surviving spouse to claim an “elective share” of the decedent’s estate if the decedent died without a will, if the spouse is omitted from the will, and even if the decedent explicitly disinherited the surviving spouse in the will. The right to an elective share continues even where the parties are separated or pending divorce, until a divorce is final.
What Are You Entitled to Under the Elective Share?
The answer to this question is going to change for decedents dying on or after January 1, 2017, based on some 2016 revisions to the Virginia Code.
For decedents dying before January … Read More »
For single parents of children with a disability or special needs, navigating the issue of child support can be a confusing and anxiety-ridden process. These parents may require more child support than is called for by the statewide guidelines in Virginia, and may require child support well past the time child support usually ends. A proper understanding of several points of Virginia law can greatly assist these parents in meeting the special needs of their children.
Deviation From Guidelines
The starting point for determining child support in all Virginia cases is Virginia Code § 20-108.2, which sets forth statewide child support guidelines. The guidelines provide a child support amount based on the incomes of the parties and any costs incurred for health care coverage and work-related child care. While such a straightforward formula may be appropriate under ordinary circumstances, custodial parents of children with a disability … Read More »
Desertion v. Separation in Virginia
Virginia Code § 20-91 provides for divorce on either fault-based grounds or no-fault grounds in Virginia. The grounds for divorce listed there include, among others, both (a) the fault-based ground of willful desertion or abandonment, after one year and (b) the no-fault ground of living separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. The separation period for a no-fault divorce is shortened to six months where the parties have entered into a separation agreement and have no minor children.
All of which leads to this common question: how does one live “separate and apart” to qualify for a no-fault divorce, without being found guilty of willful desertion or abandonment?
Virginia courts distinguish desertion from mere separation by looking at the specific behavior of the parties. Courts have consistently found that one party moving out of the marital bedroom … Read More »