Many couples who separate for the purpose of divorcing do not have the financial resources or the desire to spend their financial resources on retaining attorneys. We attorneys aren’t offended by the idea of couples mediating between themselves an amicable resolution. However, we always caution people to speak with an attorney before signing any agreement. Some might think it’s our way of getting your money—but the reality in Virginia is that once an agreement is signed it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to set aside.
There is a long standing principle that people can make as good or as bad of a contract as they want. This is especially true in separation agreements, which can be set aside in Virginia only on limited grounds—when they were entered into under “undue influence” or are “unconscionable.”
The difficulty of setting aside separation agreements … Read More »
As we have previously discussed here at the Livesay Myers Blog, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can have a significant impact in a family law case where one party is a member of the Armed Forces. The SCRA provides paths for servicemembers on active duty to delay litigation in which they are involved. Key points that servicemembers often ignore with respect to the SCRA are (a) that it only provides a temporary delay to their litigation and (b) that the servicemember is required to actively seek relief under the SCRA.
These points were discussed in a recent Marine Corps Times article regarding a soldier who appealed a child support court order to the Alaska Supreme Court. The soldier argued in his appeal that the SCRA protected him from any negative consequences of civil litigation as long as he is on active … 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 »
A 529 plan is an education savings account that parents may set up to pay their children’s future college education costs. Otherwise known as a “Qualified Tuition Program” in the Internal Revenue Code, 529 plans are typically established through individual states or educational institutions and provide a variety of benefits. The primary benefit is that earnings derived from the investment of a 529 plan are not subject to federal taxation when used to pay college education costs. Unlike 401k accounts, however, the contributions to a 529 plan are not excluded from taxation, and there is no third party “matching” of funds.
To set up a 529 plan, you need one custodian (also known as the account holder), one beneficiary, and a plan administrator to invest the contributions. Parents who set up a 529 plan for their child can do so in … Read More »
When parties file a complaint for divorce, they often ask the court to determine a myriad of issues: spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation, and the division of property. In Virginia, courts will decide how to divide the parties’ property through a process called “equitable distribution.”
The first step in equitable distribution is to classify all property as separate, marital, or hybrid. Generally, marital property is any property that is acquired during the marriage, whereas separate property is any property that was acquired by a party (a) before the marriage, (b) after the parties separated or (c) during the marriage from an inheritance, gift from a third party, or other source outside the marriage. Hybrid property is a mixture of the two: it is separate property that has been commingled with marital property, making it part marital and part separate. … Read More »
When deciding the “best interests of the child” for purposes of a custody and/or visitation determination, Virginia courts look to Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. In large part, that code section asks Virginia trial courts to determine the mental and physical health of the parties and the child, the role each parent has played and will play in the child’s life, the ability and willingness of the each parent to support the child’s other familial relationships, the reasonable preference of the child, and any history of family abuse. Nowhere in the factors listed in Code Section 20-124.3 is the court explicitly asked to address the immigration status of either parent. However, immigration status can have an impact on your custody case if you, or your attorney, are uninformed, and immigration status can complicate the already difficult questions before the court.
Immigration Status … Read More »
For single parents of children with autism or other 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 our 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 autistic children may … 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 »
In a case recently reviewed by the Virginia Court of Appeals, a wife sought appeal of her divorce case because the judge refused to grant a fault-based divorce on the ground of pre-marital cruelty. The trial court in her case instead entered the divorce based on the parties’ living separately, and the Court of Appeals decided there was no error in so doing. In Virginia, if more than one ground for divorce exists, the trial judge has discretion to enter the divorce on any applicable ground. The Court of Appeals, relying on this rule, held that even if the wife had proved pre-marital cruelty, the trial judge acted properly in choosing to grant the divorce on the no-fault ground of the parties’ separation.
In the course of reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals “assum[ed] without deciding” that pre-marital cruelty is a valid ground for divorce in … Read More »
A frequently asked question in Virginia divorce cases is whether one party may relinquish his or her parental rights in exchange for a termination of that party’s child support obligation. Can the parties include such a provision in a separation agreement?
This question was recently answered, quite definitively, in Layne v. Layne, 61 Va. App. 32, 733 SE2d 139 (10/23/2012).
Layne v. Layne involved a married couple with one child. The parties separated and later reached a separation agreement, which included the following provisions:
Child Custody and Visitation: Mother agrees that she has and does hereby relinquishes [sic] her parental rights and any and all claims of parenthood to the child.
Child Support: Father hereby waives the right to any claim of child support.
The separation agreement was approved and incorporated into a Final Decree of Divorce of the parties. Then, … Read More »