Many family law clients ask the same question during their initial consultation: “which court should I file in?” In Virginia, both the juvenile and domestic relations district court (“J&DR court”) and the circuit court handle family law cases. The J&DR court has the power to hear matters concerning custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. The circuit court can hear all of the same issues, in addition to divorce and equitable distribution.
Unmarried couples with children must file in the J&DR court for custody, visitation, and child support to be determined. For couples who are divorcing, there are factual, procedural, and strategic considerations that come into play when determining which court to start in. Generally speaking, if one of the parties has grounds for a divorce, it may make more sense to begin the matter in circuit court, but this is … Read More »
A new law goes into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2017, giving courts the authority to order a party paying spousal support to maintain an existing life insurance policy for the benefit of the payee spouse. This change to Virginia family law will come from a new statutory provision, Va. Code § 20-107.1:1.
The existing life insurance policies must be on the payor spouse’s life, not the payee spouse’s life. Additionally, the policy must have been issued during the marriage, through the insured’s employment, or be within effective control of the insured provided that the insured party has the right to designate a beneficiary during the marriage and the payee is a party with an insurable interest.
This new Virginia code provision effectively overrules the holding under Lapidus v. Lapidus, 226 Va. 575 (1984). In Lapidus, the Supreme Court held that nothing … Read More »
In Virginia, there are two types of courts that handle family law cases: juvenile and domestic relations district courts (“J&DR courts”) and circuit courts. Circuit courts have the authority to hear divorce cases and all matters stemming from divorce, including child custody, visitation and support, spousal support and equitable distribution. J&DR courts can hear cases of custody, visitation, child support and spousal support, but have no authority over divorce matters. J&DR courts thus hear many cases involving unmarried individuals who share children—but are not off limits to married persons by any means.
In some instances, married individuals may file petitions for custody, visitation or support in J&DR court, even if they intend to ultimately seek a divorce in circuit court. In many cases, neither individual of the married couple has grounds to file for divorce in Virginia, but still needs a determination … Read More »
If you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse, it is still possible to proceed with a divorce. Because each party in a divorce must have notice of any claims asserted against them, an absent spouse becomes an issue for purposes of service, which is the process by which parties to a case are provided with notice of the legal proceedings. In these cases, notice can be provided by using “service by publication.” Service by publication is the method of publishing an order, which acts as sufficient notice of the divorce proceedings to the spouse whose location cannot be found.
There are several potential issues with service by publication that you should be aware of if you intend to use this method in your divorce case.
First, service by publication is only to be used when one spouse truly has no … Read More »
For purposes of calculating child support, the Virginia Child Support Guidelines take into account each parent’s gross income. Virginia Code § 20-108.2(C) defines “gross income” as “income from all sources,” including but not limited to:
income from salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits except as listed below, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, veterans’ benefits, spousal support, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards.
§ 20-108.2(C) further provides that “[g]ross income shall be subject to deduction of reasonable business expenses for persons with income from self-employment, a partnership, or a closely held business.”
Pursuant to this code section, Virginia courts have consistently deducted expenses associated with rental properties from the rental income on those properties in calculating gross income. Some of the expenses commonly deducted include: mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, … Read More »
People undergoing the process of separation and divorce face many major, life-changing events all at one time. First and foremost in the minds of most parents in this situation is the issue of child custody. The initial question on the minds of many is: “Can I get sole custody of my kids?” While many parents are inclined to seek sole custody of their kids, very few are familiar with what the term “sole custody” actually means, and the difficulty that comes with trying to win sole custody of children in Virginia.
In Virginia, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for your children, including major decisions such as healthcare, education, and religious upbringing. Physical custody is where the children live. Visitation is a subset of physical custody, and can be generally … Read More »
It is not uncommon for people undergoing divorce to approach their attorneys with a laundry list of terms regarding their children that they would like included in their separation agreement, or for people who already divorced to approach attorneys with child-related terms of an existing separation agreement which they need enforced. What many people are surprised to hear is that some of those terms which they would like included, or some of the terms that may already be in their agreement, are actually unenforceable under Virginia law.
The first thing to understand in this area is that provisions in agreements regarding child custody, visitation and child support are always modifiable based upon a material change in circumstances. Always! So, any provision in an agreement which indefinitely prohibits the modification of custody, visitation or child support would be unenforceable.
Secondly, there are plenty of … Read More »
How you hold title to your real estate (real property) may have an impact on whether or not it can be left to someone in your will. When having a will drafted and considering who you want your real property to pass to upon your death, it is important to know how title to your real property is held. It is also important that you provide your attorney with the title or deed of trust for each piece of real property that you own so that it can be properly addressed in your will.
Title refers to legal ownership and the right to use property. There are several forms of ownership of real property in Virginia, including:
Sole ownership. Title to real property held in the name of one person is sole ownership. The person who is the sole owner of the property … Read More »
In Virginia, a spouse who spends or disposes of marital property for an improper purpose (a) anticipating a separation or divorce or (b) after the final separation of the parties may have committed “marital waste.” The court has the authority to consider such behavior in making an equitable distribution award.
Marital waste (or “dissipation of assets”) typically occurs when one party transfers funds out of a marital account or otherwise misuses marital funds after the marriage begins deteriorating. The aggrieved spouse must only show that the funds were withdrawn or used by the other spouse. The burden of proof then shifts to the alleged wrongdoer to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the funds were spent on a proper purpose. It should be noted that Virginia courts have held that spending money on living expenses post-separation does not usually constitute … Read More »
A written agreement between parents or a court order regarding custody and visitation are the most common methods by which custody and visitation are determined between parents who are no longer together. However, in the event that one parent will be absent from the country, a power of attorney may be an appropriate means of giving someone who is not a custodian or guardian of your children the ability to act on your behalf during their absence.
Virginia law provides for children’s enrollment in school when living with relatives who are not their parents, by use of special “kinship care arrangements.”
Virginia also allows military families to have a power of attorney regarding the care of minor children, by recognizing the military power of attorney instrument provided in 10 U.S.C. § 1044(b). See Virginia Code § 64.2-1604 and the Interstate Compact on … Read More »